(Update: Adding video, comments by city official, downtown businesses)
Expected to be discussed at June 16 city council meeting
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) --Minnesota Avenue, a two-way street in downtown Bend, could look a lot different in a few years, but not everyone is sold on the notion of a one-block, pedestrian-only thoroughfare.
Ben Hemson, business advocate for the city, says the Downtown Bend Business Association is planning on proposing a pedestrian-only area along Minnesota Avenue between Wall and Bond street at the June 16 Bend city council meeting.
"Really, during the pandemic, we heard from a number of restaurants and building owners in that small corridor, that block, about really closing the area off and programming it in a way where you can extend dining, have events out there -- all that sort of good stuff," Hemson said.
Hemson said he has reached out to businesses who would be affected.
"I think there are some folks who are really excited about the potential to get more pedestrian traffic into their businesses and around their businesses," he said. "And there's others that have, I think, valid concerns around delivery and just vehicle access in general."
Duncan McGeary, owner of Pegasus Books on Minnesota Avenue, said he believes making the area pedestrian-only would stall the flow and movement of the area.
"You're going to remove parking spaces. You're going to basically change the entire movement of downtown," McGeary said.
In recent months, some parking spaces already have been used by adjacent businesses, under the city's "parklet" program, to help restaurants and others facing rough times due to COVID-19 occupancy limits.
McGeary has owned his bookstore for 37 years, and has seen downtown Bend to through its up and downs. And he believes the area should be left as is.
"I've watched downtown come back," he said. "It's done really well, and I just believe we should leave well enough alone."
But another business owner in the same area is excited about the potential change.
Mandy Butera, the owner of Wren and Wild, said if the city and the DBBA can help beautify the area, then she's all for it.
"I think if they do it correctly and they partner together correctly, it can be done in a way that will make everybody happy," Butera said.
McGeary encourages business owners and anyone considering how the proposal might affect the area to do their research before they agree to the change.
"The thing I would ask everybody to do is to go online, check it out," he said. "There's lots of information online about whether this is a good idea or bad idea. whether it works, where it works, why it works."