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Downtown Street Closing Policy Considered

Council agrees instead to monitor street closing requests on list of official events it adopts each February.

The Duluth City Council recently considered implementing a downtown road closure policy for special events, but decided against it.

The draft policy was discussed at the council’s Nov. 26 work session, but council agreed instead to monitor the frequency of road closing requests through the list of official events it adopts every February.

Whether streets would be closed would be indicated on the list.

“If something tremendous comes up, we’ll have to make an exception,” said Mayor Nancy Harris. “And it will have to be really great.”

The city usually only closes downtown streets for the Barefoot in the Park Festival in spring at the Duluth Fall Festival. This year downtown streets were also closed during the Duluth Music Festival in August, which prompted merchant complaints about noise. Alicia Williams, director of public information and marketing, said the city doesn’t plan to close streets for the music festival again.

The policy was drafted by city staff at the request of and with input from Dixie Huthmaker, who told the council that closing the streets hurt her business, Huthmaker Violins, located on Main Street. 

The policy would have applied to Main Street, West Lawrenceville Street and Hill Street:

  • Road Closings shall be limited to four (4) times per year for each downtown street (small walk/run/parade type closures may be allowed to exceed the (4) time per year limit if necessary with closure lasting approximately one (1) hour).
  • Road closures are only allowed for a city sponsored or co-sponsored event, with the exception of walk/run/parade type closures that are approximately one (1) hour closure time.
  • The city (via the event coordinator) will be required to inform all downtown merchants of the closing date and event details at a minimum of four (4) weeks in advance.
  • No activities shall be allowed on a closed downtown street that will have noise levels too loud for merchants to conduct their regular business.
  • Clear signage must be provided stating when the road will be closed, that downtown businesses are open for business and direct to alternate traffic flow and parking options.
  • No food vendors shall be permitted to sell in the closed street that are in direct competition with an existing downtown restaurant.
  • Walk/run/parade closures will be required to cover the costs of extra police presence needed due to the road closure.

A designated committee of city staff would have made the decision on road closures.

Councilwoman Marsha Bomar said she would like input from more merchants before adopting a policy.

Anna Huthmaker December 10, 2012 at 12:23 PM
Why close Main Street at all? We have a gorgeous Town Green that was created for just such events. Closing the only major route into Downtown Duluth, blocking prime parking for customers, and jepordizing business for the Main Street merchants on the busiest days of their week, (weekends) is just absurd.
Elizabeth McCoy December 10, 2012 at 04:53 PM
Perhaps during busy festivities a police officer directing traffic at the busy intersection by Pure would be more profitable?
DavidE December 10, 2012 at 05:09 PM
When the re-alignment of 120 is complete, traffic on 120 will not have to stop at the Main and W. Lawrenceville St intersection (as far as I am aware, but could be wrong). That will make accessing Main Street a problem and will hurt merchants much more than any short term closures. Most of the merchants on Main Street don't open until 10 or 11 (depending on location), so any closures would need to be completed by 10AM. That should allow easy access to most merchants during business hours.
Sean December 11, 2012 at 10:00 PM
David, the only problem is that the re-alignment of 120 has been talked about for over 20 years and not one small bit of progress has been made. The plan for that intersection has been changed more times that Obama's story on Benghazi.
DavidE December 11, 2012 at 11:33 PM
I agree, but as of late they are making room for it by removing buildings etc.. They have already shown lack of fiscal judgement with the million dollar roundabout, so nothing will shock me now.
Dusty Graham December 12, 2012 at 09:13 PM
Why not allow food vendors to compete with downtown eateries? Competition provides a better product. Protectionism isn't the way to go.
CP3 December 12, 2012 at 09:46 PM
This policy was not approved and is no longer under review. Your point on competition with food vendors was discussed among Council during their work session.

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