A change inspired by annoying construction work may be a positive move for the annual downtown sidewalk sale.
With traffic in the heart of downtown already stymied by construction, this is the perfect year for Downtown Lawrence Inc. to try an idea that has been discussed for a number of years.
DLI has obtained permission to close the 900 block of Massachusetts Street to traffic during its annual sidewalk sale July 15. The exact construction schedule isn't known, but it seems likely that Massachusetts Street will be closed to traffic at Ninth Street at that time, which will make driving and parking in both the 800 and 900 blocks difficult, if not impossible.
It's the perfect time to try something that many shoppers and merchants have favored for years. Traffic barely crawls through downtown on the day of the popular sidewalk sale and there is only the slimmest chance of finding a parking place on Massachusetts Street. Meanwhile shoppers are trying to wind their way around racks of clothing, pedestrians pushing strollers and just the thousands of bodies that are crammed onto the sidewalk. The sidewalk sale is a popular event, but more than one shopper has been discouraged by the heat and the crowds.
Letting the sale spill into the street for at least one block is a great idea. Because of the construction, maybe it would be better to close both the 800 and 900 blocks to traffic.
If the experiment works well, it could become a regular feature of the sidewalk sale and this summer's aggravating Ninth Street sewer project will have one small positive legacy.