Frisco considers pedestrian Main Street, other efforts to support businesses
FRISCO — The town of Frisco is deep into conversations about how to effectively and safely open up Main Street this summer to help support local businesses, and to offer community members and visitors more opportunities for shopping and dining without risking their health.
Last week, Frisco held its first Business Recovery Subcommittee meeting — a group composed of town council members, staff and representatives from the business community on Main Street and Summit Boulevard — with the ultimate goal of coming up with strategies to reengage residents and guests in the community.
“The goal of this is to bring forward a proposal for the activation and animation of Main Street during the course of the summer,” said Frisco council member Jessica Burley, who is heading the subcommittee for the town. “We know we’re not going to have large events like our barbecue, at least in the time frame it would typically take place. So we want to find ways to bring people to Main Street and allow businesses to operate in nontraditional ways so that they can still provide their goods and services to patrons in a very safe and physically distanced manner.”
While nothing has been decided on, Burley said the prevailing idea currently is to close off Main Street to vehicles, and open it up to pedestrians and bicyclists as a kind of large-scale outdoor market where existing businesses can set up in the public right of way. Deemed the “Main Street Promenade,” the idea could piggyback and expand on the town’s existing parklet program, wherein miniature parks are placed in parking spots along Main Street in the summer for patrons to rest or dine.
Burley also discussed other ideas for Main Street activation, such as a scavenger hunt to drive residents to different businesses similar to Wassail Days, adding bike lanes so bicyclists can easily make their way through and creating temporary art installations in collaboration with the Make Frisco arts collective.
The subcommittee is also considering launching a new shop local campaign, wherein community members could purchase some form of “Frisco dollars,” which would essentially offer discounts at local stores.
“We think we can help maintain a certain level of business if we allow businesses to operate outside of their traditional restraints,” Burley said. “…I think in Frisco, we’ve seen that during the last two months, people have really kept their sanity by being outside and still able to see their neighbors and engage with the community.
“So we figured why not turn Main Street inside out by bringing all the businesses outside to a reasonable extent. We just don’t feel like business as usual, for a lot of reasons, is going to be a good solution. We could be hands off and let the market do its thing, but we really feel obligated to support our businesses, and ask ourselves how we can be creative and get people here in a safe manner.”
In order for the proposal to take form, Frisco would have to work with the business community to help remove a number of existing barriers in terms of permitting, signage, outdoor liquor licensing and more.
Similar concepts are already in the works in other communities around the state and country, including in Breckenridge, perhaps putting pressure on other towns to follow suit in efforts to retain their visitor numbers.
“Nobody has officially done it yet, but we’re kind of already competing for this,” Burley said. “Other mountain towns like Telluride and Breckenridge are looking at this, and Aspen already has a version of a pedestrian mall. Some of our mountain town cohorts are considering the same thing. So if we don’t do this, it may become a draw for visitors to go to other communities that are.”
The subcommittee is hoping to have a proposal in front of town officials by the next Frisco Town Council meeting on May 26.
If the council gives a green light to push forward, Burley said residents could see a test weekend on the Main Street activation sometime next month, and that the new concept could potentially last “several weeks if not months” if successful. And while success is difficult to measure with no real baseline to judge off, Burley said the town is still expecting its fair share of visitors this summer.
“Last year was probably the most visitors we’ve seen in town,” Burley said. “Now there’s the possibility we don’t have any. But I don’t think that will be true. I think the second it hits 95 degrees in Denver, we’ll start seeing the Front Range community start to come up. But it will be dramatically different. At the end of the day, none of us are going to be operating at 100% capacity no matter what we do. So we’re just trying to create a space, engage the community and bring them out to support our businesses.”
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