Last month Business Improvement District Executive Director John O’Brien shared the results of a survey of its members on the Gay Street closure to the Borough Council Public Safety Committee. By an overwhelming majority (80%) downtown business owners are in support of some sort of closure in 2022. This is despite less than a third feeling the closure helped business and 20% reporting it actually hurt business.
“I think it was a great closure for the community in West Chester,” one respondent wrote in the comments.
Permanent vs. Part-Time Closure
However when you ask what that closure should look like, factions emerge between those that want to go “all in” and the “everything in moderation” clan. Less than a third of business owners believe Gay Street should be closed permanently, while just over a third want it closed for summers only, and a bit more than that spring through fall. Regarding on which days the road is closed just over 40% believe it should be closed all week long while just under 60% want it open only on the weekends (Thursday through Sunday).
“I would support the open air market if it was a couple days a week, Friday, Saturday, Sunday,” one respondent wrote. “The way [it] was done the last two years was unfair to so many businesses.”
The discussion also included an assessment by the police department. In a memo from Police Chief James Morehead to Mayor Jordan Norley, Chief Morehead wrote: “The part-time or temporary solution would be the professional recommendation of the Police Department.’’
Chief Morehead cited traffic concerns, emergency access, delivery, limited access to handicap parking and business impacts as his reasons against a permanent closure. If the street closes once again this spring, the police department would like to see a more formal and sturdy street closure system put in place. Referencing the current system the chief said:
“These barriers, in my opinion, do not provide the borough with ease of setup, efficiency, and the aesthetic, welcoming look that it deserves.”
Instead the department recommends the borough invest in removable locking bollards that could be easily installed by Public Works and removed if needed to allow for emergency access or street repairs. Chief Morehead did caution an engineering study of the street would need to be completed to ensure the many utility lines located below the street were avoided.
A welcoming aesthetic was reiterated by many in the comments suggesting that if the closure is to be made permanent more effort should be made to create a cohesive look downtown. As one respondent put it the first summer looked “cobbled together.” More street cleaning was also recommended.
I am curious, what did you think of the closure? I personally enjoyed and would love to see it become a permanent feature of downtown. We regularly travel through downtown to Chestnut Street during morning and evening rush hour and I can’t honestly say I’ve noticed a difference in traffic when the street is closed and when it’s not.
I am curious, what did you think of the closure?
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