Bringing life back to Sparks Street

Mark Brownlee
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The head of the organization representing businesses along Ottawa’s iconic Sparks Street has stopped looking for a “home run” or “magic pill” to reverse years of stagnation in the area.

Sparks Street

Instead, Les Gagne - the executive director of the street’s business improvement area - is hoping to use the tools at his disposal to try to bring life back to the downtown pedestrian mall.

The inability to make Sparks Street a preferred destination for residents and visitors outside of regular business hours has frustrated tourism officials for years in part due to its complicated ownership structure.

The federal government controls most of the buildings, making it difficult for people such as Mr. Gagne to fill empty storefronts and rid the street of scaffolding.

That’s why he’s planning a number of smaller initiatives to draw attention to the area.

The most recent is a plan for a “zip line,” which would allow visitors to grab onto a pulley that moves along a wire slanted on an incline.

“The zip line’s not going to solve our problems on its own,” said Mr. Gagne, but it’s better than sitting around and complaining about the hand the area has been dealt.

He’s already in talks with a company that runs a similar contraption in Las Vegas, Flightlinez communications, to operate the zip line. He hoped to have it ready by June or July then have it run until late October or early November.

It’s the latest in a series of initiatives businesses in the area have planned. The BIA has also brought in new lighting bearing a logo for the street and have plans for a farmer’s market and what Mr. Gagne refers to as an “artist’s village.”

These are the sorts of attractions that will eventually persuade store owners to stay open later, said Mr. Gagne.

A revitalized Sparks Street would likely mean a lot to businesses located downtown. The area is minutes away from attractions such as Parliament Hill and the War Memorial and is also surrounded by hotels.

Organizations: BIA

Geographic location: Sparks Street, Las Vegas

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