Community

Pedestrians will have portions of one of downtown Jeffersonville’s most popular streets to themselves this weekend.

Jeffersonville officials are opening two blocks of Spring Street to pedestrians this Friday and Saturday evenings. From 6 p.m. to 11 p.m., the strips between Market and Chestnut streets and Chestnut and Maple streets will be closed to vehicular traffic.

The decision was made to give businesses in what has become the city’s arts and entertainment district more space for outdoor seating, Mayor Mike Moore said.

“We’ve obviously seen a huge surge in the interest of our downtown,” he said. “We’ve got so many people that like to mingle around. With COVID-19, I thought here’s a great opportunity to help the businesses because of restrictions with staying six feet apart.”

Physical barricades will be placed at each end of the closed blocks. The city will provide extra chairs and tables to be placed in the streets for seating.

Restaurants and bars are the establishments that will most obviously benefit from the arrangement, Moore said. But he also expects small shops and boutiques to see increased foot traffic.

“With this beautiful weather [this weekend], everybody, I think, is anxious to get out,” Moore said. “I think we’ve got an opportunity here to try something new. I’m always excited to look for new ideas, and I think this is a good opportunity for us.

Chris Palmer owns the Alcove, a bar on Spring Street, and is in the process of opening a café next door. He recently purchased another nearby building that will house an art gallery.

Even though his peak business hours fall outside of the window announced by the city, Palmer is excited about the decision.

“I’m hoping it just gives people an opportunity to come out and see some stuff, even if they don’t come in this time,” he said. “Maybe they’re just coming out and walking down Spring Street and browsing and saying, ‘Maybe someday once all this blows over, perhaps we’ll be lucky enough to check this place out.’”

Palmer cut his teeth in the bar industry in New Orleans. The walkability of the French Quarter, he said, allows the entertainment district to become more cohesive.

He said there are economic and safety benefits that come with cities establishing pedestrian-only corridors.

“This way, somebody can buy a drink, and they can take their time while they leisurely stroll around the area,” Palmer said. “They can go get food from another location. They can stop in somewhere and check out some handmade jewelry or some clothes or locally-made crafts. It gives people an opportunity to use the entire district as an experience, as opposed to expecting it to be chopped up into single districts or businesses over the course of an evening.”

Moore said this weekend’s plan is a trial run, and that the city may close the blocks again next year. In 2021, the city may look to do it every weekend during the spring, summer and fall.

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