The popular street festivals will happen much more often this year, but neighbourhood leaders hope to tone them down.
Kensington Market’s popular Pedestrian Sundays are going to be happening a lot more frequently this year, but neighbourhood residents and businesspeople are hoping they won’t be as raucous.
The Kensington Market Business Improvement Area’s board of directors voted this week to close the Market to vehicular traffic on every Sunday from the end of May to the end of September 2012. In past years, the closures have occurred only on the last Sundays of May through October, to facilitate Kensington’s popular Pedestrian Sunday festival days, during which hundreds of partiers flock to the Market to take in lively street performances.
The idea of more-frequent street closures first came under consideration late last year, when the City’s Public Realm section approached neighbourhood leaders with a proposal to install swing gates at some of Kensington’s major intersections. In the past, closing streets for Pedestrian Sundays has meant renting and positioning temporary barriers. The swing gates should be in place later this year.
Some of Kensington’s residents and business owners were initially hesitant to go forward with the idea. Tensions bubbled over at a community consultation meeting at the end of November, where retailers fretted over the possibility of lost business (Pedestrian Sundays actually drive down retail sales, though food sellers do well) and residents complained of crowding and noise.
The new plan approved by the BIA this week—which is a pilot plan, and still subject to tweaking (see the update, below)—is a compromise. Although streets will be closed every Sunday throughout the spring and summer, only three of those Sundays will be full-fledged festivals, with street performances. The rest will be normal Kensington Market Sundays—except, no cars allowed.
Mika Bareket, owner of Good Egg, a kitchen implements store on the Market’s Augusta Avenue strip, sits on the BIA board, and voted in favour of the change.
“This should work in the interest of all the businesses as well as the residents,” she said. “The nonfestival Sundays will be unprogrammed and will be strictly about participating in the community as it normally is.”
“The festivals as we know them will morph into something a little bit more curated,” she added. One will take place at the start of the season, one in the middle, and one at the end.
Bareket thinks making the street closures more frequent will help prevent the packed crowds that have become characteristic of Pedestrian Sundays. “We’ll be able to staff our businesses regularly,” she said, “and also have a regular inventory.”
Yvonne Bambrick, coordinator for the Kensington Market BIA, contacted Torontoist to clarify that weekly Pedestrian Sundays will be subject to community consultation before the plan is enacted.
“The BIA has reviewed the feedback recieved by the community through a variety of inputs,” she said, “and has put together a proposal that they’re now going to put out to all the neighbours, residents and merchants for their final feedback before we know what the season looks like. This story was premature.”
Also, this post originally stated that the weekly street closures would be occurring from May through October. In fact, the proposal is for them to happen from the last weekend in May through the last weekend in September. The story has been changed accordingly.