Frisco Town Council nixes Main Street promenade this summer but will move forward with other options
The question of whether or not to close Main Street to vehicular traffic and open it as a pedestrian space split the Frisco Town Council 4 to 3
Frisco’s Main Street will not become a pedestrian promenade this summer, the Town Council decided Tuesday, May 9, but local businesses will be allowed to lease sections of the right-of-way as outdoor business space, commonly called parklets.
After surveying residents and businesses in town about the promenade and parklets, the Frisco Town Council discussed whether to bring the summer amenities back, splitting 4-3 on whether to bring back the promenade, though no formal vote was taken.
Council members Elizabeth Skrzypczak-Adrian, Andy Held, Andrew Aerenson and Rick Ihnken expressed opposition to the promenade. The council by and large expressed support for parklets, which will be allowed in areas other than Main Street this year.
“I am super stressed about this because it is how I make my money. It’s my job. My business is my job,” Skrzypczak-Adrian said. “So if my business does well, I can provide for my family. So the promenade, for me, is a big question mark. Is it going to wreck my business? Is it going to help my business? I’m not willing to take that chance.”
The promenade began in 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic, with the town closing the street to vehicular traffic in order to make more room for pedestrians and bicyclists as many businesses limited how many customers could be indoors.
It returned the following year, but Frisco Town Council did not bring it back in the summer of 2022, opting instead to allow Main Street businesses to have parklets in the town right-of-way, such as parking spots.
Opinions on the summer amenities have been mixed, especially among the business community, so Town Council hired a consultant to survey residents and businesses to gauge interest for the possible return of the promenade and parklets.
All residents and second-home owners were mailed a postcard, and 845 surveys were returned. Meanwhile, 411 postcards were mailed to businesses with licenses in town, and 84 surveys were completed.
The surveys showed support for the return of the promenade from all parties surveyed, with 43% of business owners, 59% of primary residents and 63% of second-home owners expressing support. Meanwhile, 30% of business owners, 25% of primary residents and 29% of second-home owners preferred that Main Street open with parklets. Only 27% of business owners, 15% of primary residents and 8% of second-home owners preferred that Main Street remain untouched.
Council members had different perspectives on how to interpret the survey results, particularly these statistics: of businesses within the promenade boundaries 36% favored it, 33% favored parklets and 30% favored keeping Main Street as normal.
“In my mind, I look at that as 63% said ‘no,'” Skrzypczak-Adrian said, later explaining, “… In my head, I put the parklet people and the open-street people in the same group because, to me, that’s a ‘no’ for a closure. That’s how I’m reading it.”
Council member Lisa Holenko noted, however, that the same data could be interpreted to support the opposing point by instead lumping those in favor of the promenade and those in favor of parklets as indicative of support for amenities.
Surveyed business owners also indicated how the promenade impacted their business. The businesses that indicated a “very positive” effect included 39% of respondents on Main Street inside the promenade, 29% of respondents on Main Street but outside the promenade and 38% of respondents on Colorado Highway 9.
By comparison, only 6% of businesses within the promenade, 21% of businesses on Main Street but outside the promenade and no businesses on or near Highway 9 indicated the street closure had a “very negative” impact on business. Many more businesses were neutral.
“I’ve walked up and down and talked to every business on Main Street, and I’ve talked to the ones that want it, and I’ve talked to the ones that don’t want it,” Held said. “And the ones that don’t want it are hurting. They’re hurting. They hurt from it.”
Businesses supportive of the promenade commented that it created a more welcoming and vibrant experience, with several mentioning it increased sales and that customers said how much they loved the pedestrian zone, according to survey results presented to the council.
But, businesses opposed to the promenade commented that it made it more difficult to park. They also raised concerns about fairness, saying businesses inside the promenade get free space at public expense but those outside getting nothing. Some said the aesthetics of the closure were tacky with outdoor clothing racks and merchandise displays.
Mayor Hunter Mortensen argued that more weight should be given to resident’s opinions.
“Look at the information provided by our residents: 59% said (the promenade had) a great community feel, and they want it back for that reason,” Mortensen said. “So who do you represent? Yes, the businesses pay our bills, but they didn’t vote you into office.”
He went on to say that he felt that the promenade created a space where community members could gather in a safe and enjoyable atmosphere, rather than just bump into each other on the sidewalk, chat briefly and go on their way.
No council members expressed opposition to the idea of allowing parklets to return. Skrzypczak-Adrian said she was indifferent, while other council members expressed support.
Council member Jessica Burley suggested that businesses outside of Main Street also be allowed to lease parklets in the right-of-way from the town.
“From an equity perspective, if it’s available and there is a right-of-way where this would qualify, they should get to opt in, too,” Burley said.
Council members instructed town staff to move forward with parklets both on and off Main Street and to return with a plan and date for when the outdoor spaces could be implemented.
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