Kailyn Forbes, Special to the Daily Press

Beginning July 24-25, for four weekends this summer, The two blocks between Hill and Kinney streets will become a pedestrian friendly marketplace where the Santa Monica public can safely enjoy al fresco dining and family activities with local businesses.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the City’s economic recovery  efforts   to reopen Santa Monica included repurposed travel lanes and converted parking spaces to allow businesses to temporarily launch outdoor dining, shopping, and recreation. As an extension of this concept, the Main Street Business Improvement Association and Ocean Park Association initiated the Sharing an Open Main Street, which was approved by The City Council on a pilot basis.

“This is building on our creative use of public space that ramped up during the pandemic,” said Jason Kligier, the City’s Interim Mobility Manager. “Given the nature of the emergency, we implemented the Alfresco project.”

From 4 a.m. Saturday to midnight on Sunday, vehicle traffic will be detoured from Main Street to Neilson Way. The traffic light at Main Street and Ashland Avenue will remain operational to support passthrough traffic to and from the public parking lots.

According to the city of Santa Monica, during the four weekends, bus stops within the plaza footprint will be temporarily closed. Big Blue Bus riders will be served from westbound Marine Street near side Neilson Way, eastbound Marine Street near side Main Street, and southbound Main Street near Ocean Park Boulevard.

Bicyclists and scooter users need to dismount within the plaza footprint. Parking is available in the public lots west of Main Street and after 8 p.m. on the west side of Neilson Way.

Some businesses and residents of the area voiced opposition to the plan last month saying the closure would drive traffic into the neighborhood and only benefit a few stores.

Supporters say the two-day closures are an experiment that will help the street recover from pandemic-era shutdowns.

“The community needs a great Main Street and Main Street needs a healthy community, but our primary focus is on the residents and the community”, said Sean Besser of the Ocean Park Association. “We want this to be a community driven event where we get to see our neighbors and all the families out on the street enjoying each other’s company.”

As well as the people of Santa Monica, the Main Street Business Improvement Association and Ocean Park Association want to give back to the businesses. “They’ve had a really, really tough year and a half, and we want to show our support,” said Besser.

With the help of business operators, organizers said The Main Street Al Fresco Project utilizes streets, sidewalks, and curbside spaces to provide an outdoor gathering place for neighbors to reconnect.

“It is more important than ever for residents associations and businesses to work together to get stuff done,” said Hunter Hall, Executive Director of the Main Street Business Improvement Association. “That’s really what the pilot is all about, is just giving more credence in the weight to our partnership with the residents in the area, and getting a little bit more leash, from the city when we have ideas like this, showing that we can actually do them.”

Although there are some details still in the works, on Sunday morning at 10 a.m., Pilates Smith will be hosting Pilates on the street, and on both Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m., Circuit Works will be doing a free fitness class. In addition, there will be local music scheduled intermittently, Color Me Mine will be providing arts and crafts for the families, and games such as giant Jenga and a giant Connect Board will be available.

For more information, visit https://www.mainstreetsm.com/.