Businesses balk at closing Moncton's Main Street to cars
City considering ways to add more patio, pedestrian space because of pandemic
A group representing downtown Moncton businesses opposes closing part of Main Street to cars so it can be used for pedestrians and bigger patios.
Physical distancing rules imposed because of the pandemic will reduce capacity for sidewalk cafes and patios that usually open in the summer.
The city is considering how to provide more space. One of seven options city staff have outlined included closing Main Street from Church to Botsford streets or from Lutz to Botsford streets.
Anne Poirier Basque, executive director of Downtown Moncton Centre-Ville Inc., told city councillors Tuesday that businesses aren't in favour of that.
"We just do not want to cut access off from Main Street," Poirier Basque said during the meeting held by video conference.
A city staff report, which includes an email from Poirier Basque, said a closure would have "an extremely negative impact on the overall viability of our downtown." Hotels suggested it could result in fewer customers, resulting in fewer of those guests going to restaurants and cafes.
Other options include using Downing Street, the Avenir Centre plaza, or Robinson Court to create takeout food courts where tables and chairs could be set up.
Allowing patios to expand into on-street parking spaces was also rejected by the business group, as it would reduce available parking and force people to park farther away and walk.
"You can't cut that access off to all of your businesses," Poirier Basque said.
Coun. Greg Turner said closing streets for even a day disrupts the normal flow of traffic.
"It's really a bit of a deterrent actually unless you have an event going on" like the Atlantic Nationals car show, Turner said.
Coun. Paulette Thériault said the city should consider using the pandemic as a time to "reinvent" the city, saying Main Street has too many vehicles to begin with.
"I find it almost frustrating," Thériault said. "I don't understand why we can't have a Main Street that's one way."
Jack Macdonald, the city's general manager of engineering and environmental services, said the city was built to accommodate two-way traffic. He said there could be an "impact" from switching to one-way, but didn't elaborate.
Poirier Basque also said downtown office workers who are working from home are no longer spending money at coffee shops or buying lunch at restaurants.
She said if that trend continues over the long-term, it would reduce demand for physical office space and hurt the downtown where major buildings generate significant tax revenue for the city.
"We're thinking this is going to be devastating," she said, adding closures could prompt offices to look for cheaper space with available parking elsewhere in the region.