Letter to the editor: Make it permanent
To the editor:
With COVID-19 cases rising by the day, it’s hard to feel optimistic about much of anything. But a walk through downtown on Friday evening revealed a silver lining: Virtually every outdoor seat at a downtown restaurant or bar was occupied. (And, to address the elephant in the room: There were still open parking spots). The diverse designs businesses have created for their outdoor space added some unique charm that Lawrence is known for. Sacrificing a few parking spots to increase the amount of usable downtown space is good for the businesses and good for the city.
Though the rollout of the downtown reconfiguration was a bit rocky, the city struck the right balance by allowing establishments to opt in to using their curbside space for seating or retail. Lawrence can capitalize on this momentum by making the policy permanent. Any future business — whether we’re still in a pandemic or, preferably, safely on the other side – should have the opportunity to use its curbside space to create a more vibrant and friendly downtown. Developers can take note: There is a demand for mixed indoor/outdoor public space, and the success of downtown can be emulated elsewhere.
With no end to the pandemic in sight, we can use this unusual time to experiment with creative ways to support both retail and restaurants in a responsible manner. And when we find something that works, like the downtown reconfiguration, we can carry it into a post-pandemic “new normal” that serves the city best.