A group of downtown stakeholders were throwing ideas against the wall Tuesday morning when one hit and bounced around the room: Close portions of Broadway on the weekends to vehicle traffic and basically make it a festival zone.
“Reclaim the streets for people other than people with cars,” was how CSU student Travis Hart, a part-time employee at Uptown Columbus, Inc., presented the idea.
It bubbled out of a three-hour session in which about 25 downtown residents, business and restaurant owners, property owners and real estate developers participated in a meeting facilitated by Billy Parrish, an Atlanta-based consultant who specializes in downtown and neighborhood renewal.
The group split into four smaller groups that focused on residential development; entrepreneurship; parks, playgrounds and pedestrians; and communication and engagement.
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Currently portions of Broadway are closed usually the 1000 block during concerts and other events that spill out into the median.
Many of those in the discussion pushed the idea that parts of Broadway be closed on the weekends from Friday evening until Sunday mornings, creating what they deemed a festival zone with people able to move freely in the streets and median.
Any such idea would have to win the approval of Columbus Council.
Closing parts of Bay Avenue was also mentioned, but it did not gain the traction that the possible closures of parts of Broadway did.
“By closing the streets to traffic, you would get a greater sense of safety,” Hart said.
Miles Greathouse, one of the co-owners of 1000 block craft beer store Maltitude, said he would be in favor of that idea even though it might create longer walks for some of his customers. They would also have to come up with innovative ways for people to carry larger loads back to their cars, Greathouse said.
“It sounds like a cool idea and if it has promoted more commerce in other cities, it might be worth a try here,” Greathouse said.
One of the examples used by those pushing the idea was how much the business climate improved in New York City’s Times Square when parts of it were closed to vehicle traffic.
One of the suggestions was to try and have a plan in place to experiment with the street closings in September when the Uptown Concert Series resumes.
Uptown Columbus Inc. President Richard Bishop, who is also president of the nonprofit Uptown Business Improvement District, said there are steps he must take before this idea becomes part of a political discussion.
“There were a number of ideas that came out of these two sessions and I plan to go over those ideas with our two boards and from there they will give me direction on which ideas to move forward,” Bishop said.
Another of the ideas was to brand the central business district as downtown and not uptown, a description that has been in play for also three decades.
“It is downtown again it is recovered, revitalized and resurged,” said Ride On Bikes owner Jason McKenzie. “I think it is easier to tell people that you are going downtown, rather than uptown.”
There is another reason to do it, too, McKenzie said.“It tells people of Columbus it has been fixed,” he said, “and we are not trying to fix it anymore.”