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Bend considers one-way street, removing parking spaces for outdoor seating

City says 10 businesses requested changes, including removal of some parking spaces

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Some business owners in downtown Bend have asked city leaders to accommodate their outdoor seating plans by considering proposals to close some streets and parking spaces, and change traffic patterns.

City staff shared details of initial applications and made some updates to their outdoor seating approval process at Wednesday's city council meeting. The city says proposed outdoor seating plans and parklets may include tables and chairs, retail racks, planters and benches. 

City Councilor Chris Piper said Thursday the city has to keep in mind making the spaces ADA-accessible and provide clearance for emergency services.

“We want to be very respective and assistive to the businesses that aren’t restaurants, and still be able to provide what we believe (is) adequate parking in those areas,” Piper said.

The city said the businesses on the western half of the block on Northwest Minnesota Avenue between Wall Street and Bond Street are requesting for Minnesota Avenue to become a one-way eastbound lane.

Clifford Eslinger, the executive chef of 900 Wall in downtown Bend, said his restaurant is spearheading the efforts so it can expand outdoor seating while maintaining pedestrian travel lanes. 

He said the proposal is for Minnesota Avenue to allow one lane of traffic from Wall Street to Northwest Gasoline Alley, and then expand to two lanes, both eastbound, from Gasoline Alley to Northwest Bond Alley.

Piper said about 10 businesses have sent their requests for changes to the city. Some include requests to remove parking spaces in front of their business and make room for pedestrian passage so they may use the sidewalk completely for outdoor seating.

But fellow Councilor Justin Livingston, whose motion for a change in the process failed, said he's concerned the proposed changes could cause tension between different businesses. He said he believes the changes place more emphasis on helping out restaurants than other kinds of businesses.

We can’t help one sector or one business group at the detriment of another, and I just felt the way it was structured didn’t give a voice to other business sectors,” Livingston said.

The owners of Lulu’s Boutique said they were opposed to the idea of closing down Minnesota Avenue entirely. 

But Leah Cassidy, one of the co-owners of the store, said she became open to the idea of making it a one-way street. 

“Earlier in the year, they did take away those four parking spots, which didn’t help,” Cassidy said. “The more we talked to restaurant owners, the more we realized if the restaurants don’t work, downtown doesn’t work. So it’s a symbiotic relationship -- we all have to figure out something together.”

Other requested changes include limited closures in Tin Pan Alley and Brooks alley, to allow time for deliveries. 

Piper said he and city engineers will be doing a downtown walk-through on Friday to get a better idea of what the street and parking changes will look like.

“I think as a city we have to remain flexible, we have to be nimble, we have to be scalable,” Piper said. “Not every business is the same, not every footprint is the same. We have a unique downtown core.”

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Rhea Panela

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