Last week, the 1000 block of Massachusetts Street was closed to vehicular traffic for seven hours for the anniversary of the Granada Theater.
The celebration marked 80 years since the Granada opened as a silent movie theater in 1933 and 20 years since it became a live concert venue. The Granada converted its parking lot into a beer garden for the event and showed the movie “Goonies” on a giant inflatable screen to people gathered on Massachusetts Street.
There are sure to be some who say the event was a big success, that it attracted a large number of people to downtown, that it was good for business and other ways Lawrence and the downtown benefitted. Others will say it is difficult to identify any examples of how it was good for downtown or the 1000 block other than it probably increased the sale of beer and pizza and allowed a relatively small crowd to see a free movie.
Hopefully, the decision by the Lawrence City Commission to approve closing of the 1000 block of Massachusetts will not become a common practice. If the city’s main street can be closed to celebrate a theater’s anniversary, how are commissioners going to deny merchants seeking similar accommodations to promote their particular businesses? What are the criteria to justify a street closure?
A stroll down the 1000 block of Massachusetts Street during last week’s closure didn’t do much to elevate the city’s image and probably shouldn’t be used in future efforts to entice a major retailer, manufacturer or prized KU faculty recruit to locate in Lawrence.
Of course, it’s all in the eyes of an observer, but the closure of Eighth Street between Massachusetts and Vermont streets and Massachusetts and New Hampshire streets, as was done for the annual Kansas University Relays, seems far more appropriate and good for Lawrence and its downtown.
Shutting down even one block of Massachusetts Street should be a rare occurrence. It seems Lawrence city commissioners could come up with far better ways to promote and energize downtown than to set a block aside for beer, pizzas and a free movie.