Happy Memorial Day!

This week's post was supposed to be a followup to my post outlining rebuttals to the most common complaints I hear about Expanding Housing Choices (and NIMBYism in general), titled Why I DON'T hate NIMBYs. I will express my empathy for NIMBYs in the next post, because I thought the following post was much more timely.

In urban news, we have been hearing a lot about the specific phase of the pandemic that the United States is in. We are at an inflection point where the country is slowly starting to reopen. Many small businesses and especially restaurants across the country have been hit hard. Durham is no exception.

The federal government has issued PPP loans and other relief, but cities must maintain a balanced budget. So what can cities do? One thing they can do is relax regulations and allow businesses to figure out their own solutions.

Many cities are closing down streets to cars so that pedestrians can have room to walk without getting too close to fellow residents.

In Portland, one website (https://www.portlandpromenades.com/) is recommending street closures to help local restaurants survive, by allocating space to outdoor seating. They cite specific streets and blocks where this might work and have put together images like this one:

source: www.portlandpromenades.com

It has been amazing to watch restaurants pivot to delivery and curbside pickup, but Durham could take the next step by allowing downtown restaurants to temporarily use public space that is normally reserved for cars. Traffic is down and the need for space for restaurant activity and general human outdoor activity is WAY up.

That's why it could make sense to close down Parrish Street to cars and allow restaurants to set up tables, with designated zones for each restaurant. Restaurants on Parrish like Bull City Burger & Brewery could have a zone, but nearby restaurants like Pompieri, that could easily service the outdoor area on Parrish could also have a zone.

Here is one stretch of Parrish Street as it is now:

And here is how it could look (please excuse my mediocre photoshop skills):

Parrish Street cuts right through downtown, but already doesn't feel like a major throughway for motor vehicles. I would be open to other suggestions, but Parrish feels perfect. Of course, there are restaurants that are further away from Parrish. We could also utilize parking lots like the Chapel Hill Street Lot, and plazas like the currently underutilized Carolina Theatre/Convention Center plaza. While we are at it, we could do a pilot of smART Durham's "Backyard" idea, for Main Street restaurants that back up onto the downtown loop.

source: www.smartdurham.org

The biggest problem, though, is that this needs to be deployed ASAP. It should be considered a pilot program and it may not be perfect. The City may have to make a plan, and then adjust it again and again based on feedback. But if we wait for perfection, our beloved restaurants may not survive. I think it is time to push for #Parrish4People, because cars don't need Parrish right now; people and small businesses do.

Pushback? Alternate suggestions? General thoughts? Join us on the forum here to share!

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