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Downtown Bend business group proposes Minnesota Avenue go pedestrian-only

(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."

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Leslie Cano

Leslie Cano is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Leslie here.

Comments

49 Comments

  1. Why not use Brooks street as a how to model? Open to cars but certainly dominated by pedestrians. Just like it was meant to be, with interstate highways being the exception and not the model for in town.

      1. Brooks needs to be open to vehicles, as all of the businesses along the alley receive their deliveries there. Without access, delivery trucks would be forced to use Wall, which would clog up the downtown streets and eliminate even more parking.

    1. Why, its one of the shortest (2 blocks) and slowest streets in the whole city already and connects to pedestrian walkways on both ends already

      1. Disrupts the grid system downtown. Will increase traffic on Oregon and to a lesser degree on Greenwood and Franklin. Also the end treatments will be critical to keep drivers from trying to turn into Minnesota.

  2. The ONE place that 100% should be for pedestrians only is Brooks Alley. Why is this not being talked about? Cars drive down that alley all day long and nearly hit kids, bikes, as well as people walking along the alleyway. This makes literally zero sense! That alley should be designated for pedestrians only!

    1. Wrong. Brooks is where deliveries to businesses are made. Without access to the alley, trucks would be forced to use Wall, creating more traffic and parking issues. And for the record, it has been talked about. The vast majority of businesses and shareholders along Brooks are against it.

  3. This is brilliant, let’s make drivers drive further out of their way to get to a business they’ll be able to see but not be able to get to.. More time at stoplights trying to go around the block etc. makes sense to me. Less parking is a super-duper idea too. I’m sure the people with disability issues won’t mind walking a few extra blocks to buy a book or or a dog treat. The owner of one business on Minnesota wrote a very impassioned, common sense piece in the Bend Bulletin this past weekend and it’s worth a few minutes to hear just one business owner’s opinion.

    1. Most people already avoid this street because its impossible to use- you want more parking, closing down these one or two blocks would make room for more parking in fact, the possibilites are endless but I think we all can agree the current setup is a failure

      1. I look out my window every day at this stretch of road. It’s not a failure but looks crappy with the tents, propane bottles, power cords etc needed to support tent city. Wait until there are a few homeless tents and panhandlers. Parking sucks downtown and the city wants more bikes and less cars, so it’s not getting any better anytime soon. City council will pass this without question.

      2. Baloney. I often use it when needed to get to a business on Bond Street, such as JDub. I don’t want to take a longer route on Franklin and have to deal with 2 more traffic lights.

    1. Really? Why do you hate elderly and differently abled people? My mother for instance is one of those people. She is a truck driver that has bad knees and a bad back from driving the truck but you probably do not care about that case either. Oh well I am not one of those people. I am 6’4″ 245lbs and I exercise every day. I would love to see you say something like that to my mother in front of me. Probably never happen though you are probably just an internet tough guy. I doubt very seriously you would say that to someones face. Just my thought. What do you think? Oh I am sorry you probably do not have a brain. I on the other hand will be happy to buy you a plane ticket to come here and see if you have the nerve to say that to someone I know.

      1. Truck drivin mama, i cant decide if thats the new sarah palin voter demo or a just cinemax late night movie? Either way send her over to kevista, i will buy her a shot and work things out one way or the other! Thank you for your service

      2. What are you rambling on about? Your reply to No Big.., is completely pointless. You puff up your chest because someone said people can walk or ride a bike? Wow. Thanks for the contribution.

      3. I hope you are not referring to me and my sarcastic viewpoint! I won’t fight you or your tough guy mom as I am a pacifist. Perhaps a dance off would work better. And we won’t have to travel, I live right here in Bend, Oregon. I use the handle calimike as I was Mike but I’m transitioning to a Cali. You big bully.

      1. Its not “people” its developers who build unwalkable neighborhoods with zero services and a city apparatus that approves it… its only “people’s” fault insomuch as we in the past, have voted for city councils that rubber stamped such behaviors

  4. Bend has reached the point where the area from Franklin to Greenwood and Bond to Brooks should all be pedestrian with no vehicles (including bicycles and scooters) banned. Build a three story underground parking structure where the current surface parking between Brooks and the river/Mirror Pond resides and allow a single story business complex to built on top
    (Owners of business complex who now would have water views pays for construction of the garage, while the city owns and operates). Access to the parking garage is off of Franklin only. You would have space for more street cafes and street events in summer and could have outdoor cafes even in the winter.

  5. This would be a nice first step. Ultimately, It would be nice to see all of Bond and Wall (between Franklin and Greenwood) pedestrian only. Look to Burlington, VT as an example. They’ve done a great job with limiting downtown traffic and still keeping shops accessible.

    1. Bend people don’t know how to get anywhere except for in a car. That’s why they moved here. And they need to be able to park wherever they want.

  6. It’s easy enough to look up- historically, 85% of streets converted to pedestrian-only areas have been considered failures and no longer exist as such. Given that, I’m sure Council and the City will charge ahead anyway as they always seem to know what’s best for everyone.

      1. Not saying it can’t be done right but again, historically, the qualifiers for success are: a large residential downtown population, a college town with a large university, proximity to a large body of water (big lake/ocean), and a population well in excess of 100k. Downtown Bend has none of these. As Ben Hemson mentioned in the video, this is mainly at the behest of the restaurants. Just like the parklets, it sure seems like the effect on retail businesses is an afterthought.

  7. If anyone restricts my access to the ‘D” and parking for my 1989 lifted F350 with my trump flags on the back there’s gonna be hell to pay!

  8. Can you add the link with all the online info mentioned Barney? It would seem we are at an all or nothing phase of change in this town. I like the idea of all downtown being devoid of cars, bikes etc, but to close off one street that is a block long yet has some crucial parking at this juncture, and access to Bas Torros (or how ever you spell that new joint) and the Toomies which have been bar/restaurant locations for as long as I remember goes against the idea that we want to save our local businesses during such hard times. Sure a hair salon does not care. They are booked out online. But the book store and other downtown business needs the drive by traffic and parking. As a former downtown tenant, the single biggest complaint we got was parking. Any business that competes with a downtown spot can easily lose their clients because it is such a mess. This plan would just add to it.

  9. When I lived in Eugene many years ago, they thought that same thing would be a great idea, they removed the street, put in full walking areas flower pots, trees, water fountains, ect, it all looked great, it turned into the place where people they nicknamed the “Mall Rats” hung out, many $$$$ later, it is a through street now. But I’m sure Bend would be deferent, or it could turn into the place where people we have nicknamed the “Homeless” hang out.

  10. Los Toros and Wall want to use taxpayer built roads and funded projects to boost their seating capacity, and are using their money and influence to get what they want….There I fixed it for you. Get rid of those god awful tents and if you want more seating buy a larger restaurant, I don’t want my taxes funding your expansion.

  11. I thought the DBBA was supposed to be looking out for the interests of all the businesses in the downtown area… sounds like they’re missing the mark here.

  12. Please don’t make us disabled people walk even further! Parking downtown is already inaccessible so please DO NOT make it even harder for us!! Not all of us have disability parking either so adding just a couple spots is not accessible

  13. I’m not particularly fond of the ramshackle “parklet” COVID-hotboxes, but they did serve a purpose when no one could eat inside. Allowing their continued presence seems to benefit the restaurants over the retailers nearby who hope potential customers can find parking places, but restaurants typically employ more people than one- or two-person shops, so there is that. Likewise, the proposal to close Minnesota St. to vehicles and make it a ped-only area appears on the surface to be a giveaway to Wall, Bos Taurus, Dogwood and the Good Drop, further reducing places for retail shoppers to park. Yet some great benefits may accrue from the idea, I know I don’t know enough to know. Question: How frequently does the parking structure reach max capacity?

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