Bloomington May Close Streets For Business Expansion During Pandemic | WGLT

Bloomington May Close Streets For Business Expansion During Pandemic

May 25, 2020

The Bloomington City Council votes Tuesday on a plan to allow the city manager to temporarily close streets, city parking lots and alleys to allow for businesses to expand their outdoor footprint during the pandemic.

The meeting is at 6 p.m. at City Hall, but will be conducted virtually.

Mayor Tari Renner said the city isn't looking to close entire streets indefinitely, but said the city is willing to entertain ideas to help business owners trying to generate traffic while needing to maintain social distancing.

“If there’s a particular area or street where they are multiple vendors that want to do that regularly, then we’re certainly open to that,” Renner said. “Private businesses can get creative and propose some things to us, we will be like white on rice to make sure that these things happen. We want to make sure that we get things done.”

Last week, Gov. JB Pritzker said he plans to allow bars and restaurants to offer outdoor seating as Illinois moves to the next phase of reopening at the end of May.

Renner noted the city has temporarily closed streets for events in the past, including the WGLT Summer Concert. The city also closes off parts of downtown for the weekly farmer’s market and Pride Fest, among others.

A number of cities across the United States are taking advantage of lighter vehicle traffic by allowing  businesses to expand outdoors while encouraging more walking and recreation in urban areas.

Renner said the city wants to keep main thoroughfares open and closing state roads, such as Main Street in downtown, would require approval from the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Renner added if the road closings prove beneficial for businesses as they seek to maximize their space during the pandemic, this could help lay the groundwork for more permanent streetscape changes in the future.

“This is the kind of thinking we can conceivably begin to do again as we move forward,” he said. “We can use COVID as an opportunity, not just as a crisis.”

Renner also said previously he would use his authority as liquor commissioner to allow more bars and restaurants to serve liquor to outdoor patrons during the pandemic.

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