BERLIN — After learning that changing street closures for town events was not an option, Berlin officials brainstormed other ways to increase foot traffic to businesses that lie off the beaten path.
Earlier this month, several residents approached the Mayor and Council about the possibility of rerouting traffic closures to open up more space for visitors in downtown Berlin during special events. The current street cutoff for most festivals is at the intersection of Bay and Main streets. If the council had accepted an expansion, the new cutoff would have been at Tripoli and Main streets.
This would increase the flow of foot traffic to businesses located on side streets. However, it would also mean significant sacrifices to total parking in Berlin.
“[Director of Economic and Community Development] Mike Day and Chief [Arnold Downing] counted the parking spots,” said Town Administrator Tony Carson.
By altering the street closures, Carson revealed that 80 parking spaces would be rendered inaccessible.
There were even larger impediments to changing street blockage coming from the State Highway Administration (SHA), Carson added.
“We found that State Highway would not be in favor of that,” he said.
According to Carson, SHA doesn’t consider increasing foot traffic a viable reason for altering street closures.
“So they don’t care about the merchants?” asked Councilwoman Paula Lynch.
“Those businesses are cut off from foot traffic,” she added, referring to shops located out of the current closure zone.
Carson was less critical and pointed out that those businesses were still seeing patrons because they tend to be located near parking areas. Mayor Gee Williams agreed but did propose hanging large banners above Main St. advising visitors to investigate less trafficked roads while in town.
“There’s something at least to alert people there is more going on,” he said.
The council supported the idea and Carson noted that banners could help the town with its goal of “trying to get traffic to flow” during events. He reminded the council, however, the banners should probably be multiuse instead of making a new set for each festival or celebration.
“They should be something generic,” Carson said.
The idea will have time to simmer, since this weekend’s 2nd Annual New Year’s Eve celebration doesn’t leave much time or room to work on a banner.