Parts of Traverse City's Front Street will be closed to vehicles to make more room for pedestrian foot traffic this summer. The City Commission approved the proposal at a virtual meeting Monday night.
"[The purpose is] to offer an opportunity for our citizens to engage in recreational activities on a shared Street within their neighborhood while maintaining social distance recommendations during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic," the proposal reads.
The plan would close off the 100 and 200 blocks of Front Street to cars, restaurants could then use the sidewalks for more outdoor seating while pedestrians can walk through the street at a safe social distance. The sections of Front Street will be cordoned off in June and will last through Labor Day, according to City Commissioner Tim Werner. But he says this is uncharted territory and the policy may be changed based on community feedback.
"We can alter things, we can adjust as needed," Werner said.
Traffic will be routed through State and Cass Streets to avoid gridlock. The commission also approved a plan to put barricades along the sidewalks on Washington Street near downtown. The hope is, Werner says, that will keep drivers from going too fast and give pedestrians more room along that sidewalk.
Even though the plan was approved, some are concerned it will slow business downtown. Kerry Glaesmer's family has owned Votruba Leather Goods on Front Street since 1965. He says the plan will help restaurants, but could hurt retail shops.
"Generally I’m not in favor of closing streets, cause it seems to limit business. But this is something completely different than we’ve ever come across. I guess I’m willing to give it a try to see how it works," Glaesmer said.