Jean Cadorette is just hoping for a little bit of change.
Cadorette, who has owned Bistro on Gaetz for six years, wants to see more foot traffic coming down the street in front of his restaurant.
That’s why on Thursday, he presented a proposal to the Downtown Business Association, to bring a pedestrian-only section to Little Gaetz Avenue, from Ross Street to 48 St. The full length of little Gaetz is a three-block stretch, from just past 51 St. to 48.
“The reason behind my proposal is we need foot traffic. For the retailers and also the restaurants. Because right now, people are coming downtown for a single purpose… and then they leave downtown,” he said.
“My idea is they need to stay downtown and walk around and visit other businesses that sometimes they are not even aware of.
My restaurant has been downtown at the same location for over 15 years and I still get people in here saying ‘I’ve lived in Red Deer all my life and never known you were here.’”
The idea has been talked about by the business owners on the street, with some concerns. Many think parking will be a problem, but with parking available in plenty of other parts of downtown, he thinks the proposal should be able to keep everyone happy.
“Most of the business owners I’ve talked to are receptive to the idea,” said Cadorette, who believes there are about 30 parking stalls in the area where there would be pedestrian traffic only.
He believes the next step is for the DBA to conduct a survey of businesses in the surrounding area to figure out the interest. From there, city council would eventually need to decide.
“The main part is to get the businesses on board. It was suggested at the meeting that the business association do a survey of the businesses directly impacted,” he said.
Growing up in Montreal, Cadorette said so much of their downtown is pedestrian-only and he believes it could also work in Red Deer.
Calgary also has Stephen Avenue, which is only open to vehicle traffic between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.
“It makes a lot of sense. You see streets like this in Calgary and Edmonton – they’re closing streets downtown for pedestrian-only and it seems to be working well there,” he said.
“I don’t understand why Red Deer can’t have something like that.”
Cadorette also referred to the 2019 Canada Winter Games, where the street in front of his restaurant was closed to vehicles and a hub of activity.
“They had little Gaetz closed on my block and it was great. I mean lots of people came down here. It was cold for pretty much the whole month and still, people came down,” he said.
He said something similar could work well as people are more willing to get back out whenever the latest COVID-19 public health measures are lifted.
“We have lots of restrictions right now, but the pandemic is going to be over, I’m hoping sooner than later. And we have to be ready to jump on that,” Cadorette said.
“Have people excited to go outside and visit businesses and visit restaurants. Because people are going to be excited. A lot of people are just staying home and not doing anything.”