Record editorial: Car-free Main Street could help brighten the summer for businesses
Imagine a Main Street without cars. People roaming up, down and across the shopping and dining strip freely, stopping along the way to sift through a rack of clothes on the sidewalk outside a merchant’s storefront. Diners sitting in a warm breeze, enjoying lunch on an outdoor patio.
That could be the scene this summer — one day a week, at least — if some of the intriguing proposals brought forth by a business group that represents Main Street establishments come to fruition. The ideas are part of the discussions taking place centered on a question that is vital to both the area economy and our town’s identity: How can Main Street survive during the coronavirus pandemic?
There are obstacles to overcome and questions to consider, but the concept of pedestrianizing Main Street on a limited basis this summer — and, in turn, allowing merchants to expand their footprints onto the sidewalks — is worthy of being implemented.
It won’t be business as usual on Main Street this summer, an unfortunate reality that has come into focus as the economic effects of the pandemic have grown. The response shouldn’t be business as usual either.
This moment calls for creativity and exploring ideas that would have seemed unlikely even earlier this year. Prohibiting cars on Main Street one day per week certainly falls into that category.
It would provide patrons both a unique, lively atmosphere and a greater sense of safety. With more space for social distancing, some people would feel more inclined to spend a day shopping, dining and supporting local businesses.
What’s more, the concept is something a segment of Parkites have desired for years. Transforming Main Street once a week would be an ideal pilot program that would allow local merchants and the Marsac Building to determine whether exploring the idea on an expanded basis has merit.
Even for a one-day-a-week trial, though, a change of this magnitude would have to be carefully planned and executed, particularly with respect to compliance with whatever health restrictions are in place throughout the summer.
And the proposal is not without flaws. As two residents recently noted in a letter to the Park City Council, closing Main Street to cars could push traffic to nearby streets that are less equipped to handle lots of traffic. City Hall, meanwhile, could lose a modest amount of revenue from the paid-parking meters lining the road. Such a move could even hinder people trying to get their mail from the post office.
Those concerns, though, are relatively minor compared to the upside of a pedestrianized Main Street boosting sales for local businesses and giving Parkites and others a way to visit the area more safely.
It’s a bold idea, yes. But right now, that’s exactly what’s needed.
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