The car free Main St. experiment is back for another trip around the block this weekend with a slew of performances, fitness classes and kids activities set to take place in the pedestrian plaza created between Hill and Kinney streets.
The event is being held by the Ocean Park Association and Main St Business Improvement Association in partnership with the City. It was piloted on July 24. and 25. with a goal of bringing the community safely together and supporting local businesses.
While a faction of residents continue to bemoan health, safety, and traffic risks associated with the event, organizers consider the first event a great success and are plowing ahead on the second weekend with zeal and optimism.
OPA reported that from its own survey taken during the first Open Main Street in July, 95 percent of respondents felt positive about the pilot. SMPD officers who were on scene to maintain traffic flows and pedestrian safety, reported that the event was carried out without any incidents.
“Transforming the street into a pedestrian plaza is enabling us all to experience Main Street in an entirely new way,” said Sean Besser, chair of OPA’s Main St. Committee. “It was heartwarming to see friends and neighbors smiling together on Main Street throughout the first pilot weekend and we look forward to more of that in future weekends.”
The initial event was moderately attended and characterized by lulls in liveliness in between the fitness and music activities. With the belief that they have a strong handle on safety, organizers are ramping up programming for this weekend.
There are nine musical performances on the schedule including acclaimed violinist Nick Kennerly, Mocha Chai and the Old Corn Lickers. Local fitness businesses Platinum Pilates, Groove 3, Circuit Works, and F45 fitness will all be hosting free classes.
Kids activities are plentiful, with story time, music, arts and crafts and more. Residents young and old are invited to enjoy giant-sized games such as Jenga, chess, cornhole and Connect 4.
In addition to the abundant al-fresco dining opportunities on Main Street, picnic tables and lawn furniture will be set up for eating and relaxing within the pedestrian plaza.
The event will be repeated two more times in September and October and is intended as an experiment to examine new ways to play with car-free areas and find imaginative uses for public space.
“This pilot program is about pushing the boundaries of business/resident collaboration and piloting a new form of self-governance for neighborhood-commercial districts,” said Hunter Hall, executive director of MSBIA. “It’s about finding ways for communities to work together to come up with solutions and test things out with the City’s support.”
The closure was approved as a pilot by City Council and is funded by grants from Metro to promote business recovery and community resilience in light of the pandemic. The program will close Main between Hill and Kinny for the entire weekend.
Attendees are encouraged to walk, bike, or scoot the event. The pedestrian plaza area is geofenced to prevent e-scooter and e-bike access, so these devices will need to be parked outside the closed blocks. Bus routes that typically pass through Main St. will be detoured to Neilson Way, while temporary bus stops will be placed outside of the pedestrian zone to serve riders.
“This is a great opportunity to celebrate our community by reconnecting with friends and neighbors while enjoying music, restaurants, shopping and family-friendly activities as pedestrians take over,” said Mayor Sue Himmelrich. “Before you venture out, please remember the latest public health tips to get vaccinated, stay home when sick and wear a mask that fits.”