Park City pedestrian talks questioned: ‘if Main Street is closed to traffic, where will the traffic go?’
Sanford and Hope Melville live on upper Park Avenue, just one block west of Main Street, a location that provides easy access to the Old Town commercial hub but one that is so close that noise carries from the shopping, dining and entertainment strip and the traffic oftentimes meanders onto the residential street.
The Melvilles are among those in Old Town who are monitoring the talks about an idea proposed by the organization that represents businesses along Main Street or just off the street to mostly pedestrianize Main Street one day each week during the daytime hours.
The Historic Park City Alliance is considering a concept for Sundays or Mondays in the summer from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., arguing a mostly pedestrianized Main Street would be attractive to businesses and customers at a time of social distancing in an effort to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus. Mayor Andy Beerman and the Park City Council have not started their discussions about the idea, but it will be among the most significant decisions regarding the operation of Main Street in years. The elected officials are expected to discuss the proposal shortly with the likelihood of a decision within weeks. The Historic Park City Alliance would like to start the days by the middle of June and extend them through the end of the summer.
The Melvilles, 12-year Park City residents, in a two-page letter to the elected officials in early May expressed concern about the idea to mostly pedestrianize Main Street. The letter is some of the first formal concern expressed publicly to an idea that has generated community buzz. The letter offered support for businesses on Main Street after health orders essentially shut down commerce in Park City toward the end of the ski season.
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“However, if Main Street is closed to traffic, where will the traffic go? Will it all be directed to Swede Alley, or will a substantial amount of traffic and commercial deliveries shift to surrounding residential streets,” the Melvilles said in the letter. “Our experience is that when Main Street is closed or clogged, a large amount of traffic, commercial and otherwise, routes itself onto residential streets such as upper Park Avenue where we live.”
The relationship between Main Street and mostly residential surrounding streets like Park Avenue, Woodside Avenue, Hillside Avenue and Daly Avenue has long been delicate. Neighborhood complaints have been consistent over time even as City Hall, the leadership of Main Street and individual businesses have attempted to reduce the impacts of traffic and noise. The Melville letter is evidence that some of the ongoing issues will be broached as the elected officials consider the idea to mostly pedestrianize Main Street at certain times.
The Melvilles said in the letter there are issues with drivers leaving vehicles in zones where permits are required and City Hall would need to operate a substantial amount of traffic management, on the level of the program in place during the Sundance Film Festival in January, “to prevent traffic from a closed Main Street from simply being diverted to the surrounding residential streets, to the detriment of all of us. Please don’t make the residential streets the recipient of re-routed Main Street traffic!”
The Melvilles also question whether a largely pedestrianized Main Street will draw people as the supporters anticipate. They said an attraction of the street “is that it feels like an authentic small town Main Street, with shops and restaurants amidst slow two lane traffic that you can drive up and down, and with parking on the street.”
“Take that away and you turn the street into a barren asphalt mall and remove the last vestiges of a small town main street. What is Main Street’s attraction then,” they said in the letter.
The Melvilles, meanwhile, touch on the idea that some property owners have rights to access garages that could be impacted.
Main Street is crafting plans to boost business during what could be a difficult summer as the economic impact of the illness continues. The weekly Park Silly Sunday Market and the Tour of Utah bicycling race, both typically drawing large crowds to Main Street, have been canceled. It is not clear what sort of numbers will be generated in the usually solid summer-tourism season, running from mid-June until early September.
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“We’re kind of turning the corner … and it’s now time to maybe put out the welcome mat in a careful and thoughtful manner,” said Bill Malone, president and CEO of the Park City Chamber/Bureau.”