Park City recovery idea emerges: move Main Street businesses onto sidewalks
Main Street businesses may seek to move some of their functions outside this summer as they attempt to create an environment that accounts for social distancing, a concept that is part of the overall talks as plans are crafted to reignite the local economy but one that could have broad implications for the operations of the shopping, dining and entertainment strip.
The Historic Park City Alliance, a group that represents the interests of businesses along Main Street or just off the street, outlined the concept in a late-April memo to Park City Manager Matt Dias. The memo covered a range of other Main Street topics and continues the efforts by the Historic Park City Alliance to craft plans for the recovery from the novel coronavirus shutdowns.
One intriguing section of the three-page memo, signed by Alison Kuhlow, the executive director of the Historic Park City Alliance, talks of the use of public rights of way. The rights of way are generally the sidewalks and the street itself. The memo says the organization “is exploring ways to expand business operations outside during this time as well as looking at ways to ensure visitors can comfortably stroll while maintaining required distancing measures.”
The memo, though, does not detail the concept of the expansion of the operations outside of the businesses. The Main Street sidewalks are generally seen as narrow for the size of the crowds during busy times, and any shift of business operations onto the sidewalks or the street itself would result in less space for pedestrians on the sidewalks or for vehicles on the road. Park City officials would need to address those sorts of issues.
“The Historic Park City small business community is not only critical to the charm of Park City, but also at the forefront of economic activity within the area. The Historic Park City Alliance encourages customers to support locals first as we work to support the small business economy,” the memo says. “The efforts outlined focus on a slow recovery plan allowing for the relaxing of health orders while still maintaining measure to reduce the spread of the virus. It is important to the Historic Park City community to slowly return to normal business operations with the hopes that the 2020/21 winter tourism season is protected from a reoccurrence of the virus.”
Kuhlow in an interview said the organization has not finalized the ideas. She said the Historic Park City Alliance plans to refine the ideas for operations to fit the business occupancy numbers and restaurant seating capacity regulations included in a county health order enacted Friday.
Kuhlow also said it appears there is not support within the membership of the Historic Park City Alliance to pursue more ambitious ideas, including pedestrianizing Main Street or turning the street into a one-way thoroughfare.
She said additional discussions are expected in coming weeks, as Main Street approaches the traditional start of the summer-tourism season in June. The Historic Park City Alliance will eventually need to approach Mayor Andy Beerman and the Park City Council about the plans. The elected officials on Thursday night briefly spoke about Main Street possibilities, including the expansion onto public rights of way. There was support for the overarching ideal of backing businesses through unorthodox steps, but the mayor and City Council were not prepared to hold a detailed discussion. Formal talks will likely be scheduled shortly.
The Historic Park City Alliance holds a key role as Main Street attempts to emerge from the downturn. The organization in April issued a months-long plan to guide the recovery.
There is concern the impact of the coronavirus will stretch through the summer on Main Street and on the wider Park City business community. The Tour of Utah bicycling race organizers canceled the event this year and, shortly afterward, the Park Silly Sunday Market announced its cancellation. The Tour of Utah typically draws one of the largest one-day crowds of the year to Main Street, while the Silly Market attracts solid crowds on Sundays in the summer and early fall.
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