Downtown Bloomington began its trial run of closing Kirkwood Avenue to vehicles for restaurants to have more outdoor seating the weekend of June 19.
“It was overwhelmingly positive in that people really enjoyed being out there,” city Director of Economic Sustainability Alex Crowley said. “It sounds like this is something we want to continue with.”
Crowley said business owners gave the city positive feedback.
“I think we’ll end up seeing this evolve and maybe expand in the next couple months,” Crowley said.
Our City Limits team was asked specifically why certain blocks of Fourth Street are not being blocked off as well. The area is home to many international restaurants and is informally called Restaurant Row by locals.
“We have not gotten a formal request to do that,” Crowley said.
Crowley said the city is accommodating the closure of Kirkwood because those merchants reached out and asked for it.
“The two blocks that were selected were because those blocks had unanimous support,” Crowley said. “They said we want to do these two blocks because we have the greatest number of approvals from the merchants involved.”
Crowley said there were other parts of Kirkwood that could have had this, but those merchants were not as supportive of the idea.
“We were really reacting to their request as opposed to imposing our judgment as to what blocks ought to be closed,” Crowley said.
When asked if a similar method of blocking off the street could be applied to Fourth Street, Crowley said it’s possible.
“I can imagine places between Grant and Dunn, which has a concentration of restaurants,” Crowley said.
Crowley said the challenge of blocking off Fourth Street comes from the fire station located on the corner of Fourth and Lincoln.
“We also want to be careful of things like emergency access. The fire station is right there, so we have to be really careful about making sure we don’t create problems,” Crowley said.
Crowley said the Kirkwood closure will be evaluated while the city looks for other areas to expand this strategy.
“Our hope is that people will be more willing to go to the establishments because they know they are sitting in an environment that is outside, and therefore presumably safer,” Crowley said. “We’d love to see the economic impact happen as quickly as possible.”
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