At the May 19th Council meeting, Mayor McFadden directed staff to investigate the possibility of closing King St in Millbrook from Tupper St. (County Rd. 10) to Allan Lane to traffic during an undetermined period of time this summer. Think of it as an extended edition of “Ladies’ Night”, with a slightly shorter route. The pedestrian- only route would terminate Allan Lane to allow continued access to handicap parking spots in front of the pharmacy for those with mobility issues.
The goal is to attract foot traffic to give downtown merchants a boost when the province hits the green light for a more complete version of “Open for Business”. The change would allow merchants to extend their business footprint onto the sidewalk, as pedestrian traffic would move into the street.
Major cities across the country have initiated similar moves to allow pedestrians and cyclists more space to get out while maintaining the required physical distance. In Toronto, a program called ActiveTO has been initiated on major arteries including the Lakeshore and Bayview Avenue, and were most recently implemented over the May long weekend. Those closures were for the weekend only, running from 6 am on Saturday to 11 pm on Sunday.
There are lots of moving parts in these kinds of decisions. The city of Toronto had to adjust the traffic signal timing on adjacent routes and manage effective signage to communicate the temporary changes to all users, but particularly to motorists.
While traffic signals would not present an obstacle in Millbrook, issues such as parking remain. Mayor McFadden has confirmed that the vacant lot across from the LCBO and the Millbrook Farm and Pet Supply would be made available for public parking during any closure of the main street should one be approved.
The idea first came to the attention of residents and local merchants at a meeting last February hosted by the Millbrook Business Improvement Area (BIA) Executive. At the time, the discussion centered on making King St. a one-way street, but this new proposal takes the idea one step further. Views about the idea expressed at that meeting were mixed and intense.
Those opposed to the traffic restriction expressed concern about challenges this would present to delivery of supplies to local businesses and the inability for seniors to park very close to their destination. On the other hand, some merchants were attracted to the idea of expanding their displays and outdoor patio areas to increase their capacity. With more to see on the street, the move could also extend the time visitors spend downtown. Many businesses will likely see no impact on their operations other than making their customers walk a little further to enter their premises.
The staff report is scheduled for presentation at the June 15th council meeting, in order to allow the proposal to proceed sometime during the summer should the idea prevail. The decision ultimately rests with Council, but many others will have input, not the least of whom are the local BIA merchants. It’s a short turnaround, and many opinions to consider, but if nothing else, Council is seeking ways to support local business. Among the options under consideration are weekend, weekly or monthly closing of the street. King Street hasn’t looked this good for a long time, and finding ways to continue this trend are worth exploring. KG