Southern Indiana

Pedestrians will have free roam of Jeffersonville’s main downtown corridor one night a week this summer.

City officials first tested the idea of closing Spring Street to vehicles on the weekend of Halloween.

“With the pandemic, it was a little difficult,” Mayor Mike Moore said. “We knew the weather was not going to be the best case for it then, but we kind of just wanted to do it and learn from it.”

During this year’s RiverStage summer concert series, it’ll become a weekly occurrence.

Three blocks of Spring Street’s historic strip — between Maple Street and Riverside Drive — will be pedestrian-only from 6 to 11 p.m. every Friday. The initiative will kick off this weekend alongside RiverStage’s opening night.

Moore said he expects more than 10,000 people to attend Friday’s concert. He hopes the street closure will bridge the gap between the Ohio River and downtown businesses.

“If you go to downtown Jeff anymore just about any evening, sidewalks are full,” he said. “Businesses are flourishing. And I thought, ‘I kind of want to make this the feel of a festival.’ It’s just to give people a feeling of park your car or ride your bike down to Jeff and get out and explore a little bit.”

Bars and restaurants can set up additional outdoor seating on Spring Street during the closures. Ramiro Gandara, who owns Ramiro’s Cantina Express, said he first encountered a pedestrian-only street on vacation in Florida. Since then, he’s wanted a similar arrangement in downtown Jeffersonville.  

Gandara said the closures will attract more foot traffic from the Big Four Bridge.

“It’s just going to increase business,” he said. “It’s just going to increase the volume of people in that area. It’s going to be family friendly. That’s what we need, and that’s what we want.

But some Jeffersonville business owners hope to see pedestrian-only corridors more often, with fewer restrictions, moving forward. Chris Palmer, co-owner of the Alcove, said the permitting process made it difficult to participate in the limited trial run last October.

The new weekly plan is a “step in the right direction,” but Palmer said he’d like the closures to last from sunup to sundown on Fridays and Saturdays. He also wants pedestrians to be able to carry open containers throughout the entire closed-off area. Current Indiana law prevents people from leaving a bar with a drink.

“If I really got to twist any arms about it, I would absolutely love it if the [permit] extended to allow a lot of the bars and restaurants here to also be the vendors that are contracted with RiverStage,” Palmer said. “People could just buy their beer from my bar and then walk down to the concert, or buy their beer or a cigar from Match, or buy a pint of Guinness from O’Shea’s, or a glass of wine from Town.”

The RiverStage summer concert series happens every Friday, starting this week through Aug. 6. Spring Street will also be closed on Saturday, July 31, during the Jeff Goes Country concert.

John Boyle covers southern Indiana communities and health for WFPL News. He is a Report for America Corps member.