Imagine, a pedestrian promenade closed to cars on Minnesota Avenue in Downtown Bend.
Well, that plan is in the works.
The Downtown Bend Business Association will meet with the city council on June 16th to discuss the idea.
DBBA Executive Director Mindy Aisling declined to comment on the plan Tuesday, saying the agency would send out a press release when it was ready.
And city officials stress it’s still in the exploratory stages.
Bos Taurus executive chef George Morris says he hopes this plan gets moving relatively quickly.
“It just seems like a good idea,” Morris said. “It just seems like that’s kind of the direction the world is heading in.”
It wouldn’t be an entirely new idea. The street has been closed to cars in the past during various festivals and events like Oktoberfest.
Morris believes closing off the street permanently would benefit every business on it.
“Maybe I’ve been leaving a restaurant after a couple glasses of wine and the price tag on a painting or a shirt is a little bit easier to swallow,” Morris said.
The folks at The Good Drop Wine Shoppe agree.
Assistant Manager Adrianna Rieger says this could be a good chance to draw new customers in.
“We think that the foot traffic will allow people to visit shops that they’ve never been in or have been able to go to,” Rieger said. “Or honestly never even noticed before.”
Rieger also sees this as a new opportunity for block-wide events that could benefit businesses hit hard by the pandemic.
“I think that COVID really affected everyone in a different way,” Rieger said. “I think that allowing people to just walk around and finally just get out, enjoy the sunlight, and be around other people, but everyone’s looking forward to it and we’re just excited to make this next step.”
Safety is another possible perk.
Several outdoor dining structures now extend into the street where parking spots once were – a concession to struggling restaurants during COVID.
“You know cars are driving by, it’s always a concern that an accident could happen and we wouldn’t want anything to happen to our guests,” Morris said. “We wouldn’t want anything to happen to our employees.”
Anne Aurand, the City of Bend’s communications director, said some councilors have expressed interest in the idea.
“This is really more a conceptual discussion on what it would take to make it happen at this point,” she said in an email. “If councilors are supportive, we could try some sort of pilot project.”
Any changes to the street would require city approval, Aurand said.