A task force looking for ways to reinvigorate downtown Bloomington is circling a bold idea—closing off a portion of Main Street and making it for pedestrians only.
During Bloomington’s Downtown Task Force Committee meeting Tuesday, members discussed the possibility of closing off a portion of North Main Street—possibly the 400 or 500 blocks, just south of the row of bars—and creating a plaza only accessible to pedestrians but not everyday vehicle traffic.
Supporters caution that the idea is still being discussed and may not make it into the task force’s final recommendations to the Bloomington City Council.
“People are intrigued by this idea and by the benefits of having these kinds of pedestrian walkways or plazas,” said Alderman Amelia Buragas, whose Ward 4 includes parts of downtown Bloomington. “They can provide a sense of place, sense of community, and also support those businesses in those areas.”
If recommended, it’s possible the city would start with a limited pilot project. Several specifics would need to get worked out, like how to accommodate delivery and emergency vehicles.
“This is something we could try with very little cost and very little commitment,” Buragas said. “What we’re hearing as a task force is that we can’t let those fears of the unknown hold us back. We have to be innovative. We have to try new things. We’ve gotta see what works for Downtown Bloomington.”
Tom Dabareiner, the city’s community development director, said there are a lot of questions to be answered but that a pedestrian area or plaza would be consistent with the city’s long-term planning.
“I thought that was one of the bolder ideas that came out of that last discussion,” he said.
Task force member Tricia Stiller said it has the potential to bring more people downtown.
“It opens up a lot of possibilities for gathering spaces and special events,” said Stiller, executive director of the Downtown Bloomington Association. “Lots of communities all over the U.S. do ‘Movies on Main Street’ (events) where they get a big inflatable screen and have just family gatherings.”
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