A portion of Kirkwood Avenue will be closed to vehicles this weekend after city council members voted to approve the plan Wednesday night.
The street will be closed from Indiana Avenue and Grant Street to allow businesses to utilize the sidewalk and parking spaces for outdoor seating. Street lanes usually used for traffic will be where pedestrians can walk. Additional closures were approved through Sept. 30.
The idea was proposed by Kirkwood businesses to attempt to make dining more comfortable for people who still may not want to eat inside a restaurant due to COVID-19. The plan for this weekend will be a test run for more closures in the future and the possibility of extending closures to more areas downtown.
“We believe if there is potential, we could expand beyond that on Kirkwood,” said Alex Crowley, city director of economic and sustainable development, during the meeting. “We have to regroup and determine that after the first weekend.”
With new, easily removable bollards just installed on Kirkwood, the street is ideal for closing, Crowley said. He also added that the north-south streets along the closed portion will still be open to traffic this weekend.
City officials will be out collecting feedback this weekend from pedestrians and business owners on Kirkwood to gauge the public’s response. Crowley said there may not be a significant economic boost for businesses from just one weekend, but he said there may be visible incremental benefits seen over time if street closures continue.
The plan passed by the council also included a relaxation on signage rules for businesses through Sept. 30. Fees were suspended for temporary and permanent sign permits, usually costing $75 and $125 respectively, and the process for applying for and obtaining a permit for a temporary sign will now be streamlined. Certain restrictions on temporary signage in the downtown area will also be relaxed.
The easing of signage rules will not have a significant impact on city revenue and will help businesses to communicate safety protocols to customers without economic barriers, Crowley said.
No council members or members of the public were opposed to the plan.
Council member Steve Volan expressed his enthusiasm for the plan and reminded everyone to wear masks.
“I’m looking forward to visiting Kirkwood this weekend to see how this is received,” Volan said.