PLATTSBURGH — One city councilor is floating the idea of permanently closing off some downtown streets to create a pedestrian-friendly marketplace.
“I don’t have any specific plan yet, but I have some ideas and want to bring this forward to see if this is something we want to pursue,” Councilor Josh Kretser (D-Ward 6) said at a recent City of Plattsburgh Common Council meeting.
He said a pedestrian-only area downtown could bolster business by increasing foot traffic and making that area a destination for shoppers.
“Every business goes through a re-branding a lot of times, and I think downtown is in a position to benefit from a re-branding,” he said.
In recent years, the city has been closing off City Hall Place for special events, such as the Fourth of July, Mayor’s Cup and the Battle of Plattsburgh Commemoration.
Last year, the city also shut down that street for a new event known as First Weekends, when downtown business leaders host a street party with local music and other activities.
The street closures have been largely met with positive response, but Kretser said that doing so on a permanent basis requires a longer look.
“There is a trend now where people are wanting to shop more in downtown areas and get away from the malls and strip malls,” Kretser told the Press-Republican.
“If we prove to investors that we are doing the planning to accommodate more business downtown, then they might be willing to invest in Plattsburgh.”
In addition to City Hall Place, Kretser said part of Margaret Street between Brinkerhoff and Court streets, Clinton Street and Upper Bridge Street could be possible pedestrian areas.
“Anything is possible, at this point; we just have to take a good look at it,” he said.
Kretser said the Plattsburgh-North Country Chamber of Commerce and The Development Corp. have agreed to help him study the idea. He will also reach out to downtown business owners, residents and anyone else interested.
“I will set up some meetings for this.”
Tim McCormack of First Weekends said his organization would also be happy to help evaluate the idea.
“I am glad that you are reaching out to different groups to look at this,” he told Kretser at the meeting.
Mayor James Calnon said that studying the possibility of closing off streets is a good idea but would probably take time. He noted that he was told that it took nearly 10 years of study before the City of Burlington closed Church Street to vehicle traffic, creating what is now a very attractive pedestrian-only shopping area.
“On the surface, it might seem like a simple idea, but there could be a whole lot of ramifications from closing streets,” Calnon told the P-R.
“This needs a lot of study before any permanent changes are made, and it needs to be vetted widely, and we need to bring people in on the discussions who have experience with this kind of transformation.”
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