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A few months ago I mentioned the idea of closing down a street at night the way Austin, TX, closes down Sixth St. through a row of live music clubs. I visited Austin a couple of years ago and Sixth St. downtown is an alive, exciting place on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Proponents argue that closing the street gives the area a true pedestrian-focused entertainment identity; that it’s great for the club businesses and for the patrons.
Could it work in Seattle? The Capitol Hill Community Council invited me out last week to talk about the idea. By and large, the group liked any concept that gives pedestrians more primacy in the public right-of-way. We talked about the likely advantages and pitfalls of closing down Pike St., but people got REALLY excited when we talked about completely overhauling 10th Ave, Broadway, Nagle and Pike to give people, bikes and trees more space. One speaker said that of any place in Seattle, Pike St. would be the place to test out a street closure at night. Admittedly, no owners of small businesses were in the group last night, but the people present seemed to have a voracious appetite for tilting the public right-of-way scale.
In Austin the three-nights-per-week closure receives support from a mini-taxing district. The revenue collected from the businesses along Sixth pays for extra garbage pick-up, extra security, marketing and more. Locally, much of the Broadway strip sits inside the boundaries of the Broadway Business Improvement Area which handles extra clean-up. Pike St. lies outside the boundaries (which may explain why I got an earful about trash in the Pike/Pine area). I’ve heard more recently that in Austin there are growing concerns about it being a rowdy drinking strip; the place where out-of-towners go to drink, but with insufficient regard for the music and the surrounding community. It would be a shame to start something in Seattle and have it turn into an excuse to be drunk in the street.
My next step is to talk with some business owners to gauge interest.
Posted: July 19th, 2010 under Random