Frisco plans to move forward with Pedestrian Promenade this summer

Council might pull the plug if business capacity restrictions are eliminated

Pedestrians walk along the Frisco Main Street promenade in summer 2020. The town has decided to bring back the attraction this year with some caveats.
Photo from town of Frisco

The Frisco Pedestrian Promenade is set to return this summer.

Frisco officials asked town staff to move forward with the pedestrian Main Street concept again this year during a regular Frisco Town Council work session April 26, deciding on a planned opening June 18.

The promenade arose out of necessity last year as the town sought out new ways to help Main Street businesses stay afloat while keeping within capacity limits set by state and local public health orders. Its return will again offer businesses the opportunity to expand seating areas and retail space into the road and provide community members a pedestrian-friendly area to spread out while they shop and dine.

“I really believe this is a situation where a rising tide will raise all ships on our Main Street,” Council member Melissa Sherburne said. “What the promenade did was create an atmosphere. It’s an incredible draw for tourism. We saw it as a place to relax last summer where it was hard to find places like that. But also into this summer, where it won’t be as intense of a COVID environment, it will be a walkable, charming Main Street experience that’s really hard to find, especially in the mountains.”

While the Town Council plans on moving forward with the Pedestrian Promenade again this year, council members did voice that the plug could potentially be pulled if there are not any capacity restrictions in place at the county level and if they feel it’s unnecessary. While it looks likely that Summit County will move into level green sooner rather than later, Frisco officials emphasized they’d rather have a plan in place than take a chance on finding themselves unprepared.

“I personally think we don’t know what the summer will be,” Mayor Hunter Mortensen said. “We’ve seen spikes. We’ve seen health issues. We’ve had concerns. And I think if we don’t have the ability to implement this plan as it’s been presented … we don’t necessarily have to do it. But we have it ready in case we need to. So I’m in support of moving forward with this, picking a date, planning on going ahead with that date and maybe being wrong and being able to say that life is back to some semblance of normal, and we don’t need it.”

Frisco residents largely seem on board with the return of a pedestrian Main Street. In March, Frisco opened an online survey to gain input on whether the promenade should return in 2021. Of the 320 respondents, more than 85% said they’d want to see the promenade back.

The town pushed out another survey to business owners last month, which revealed that 21 of 33 respondents would like to have the ability to provide additional space. When asked specifically whether the promenade should return if there are no public health restrictions on occupancy, 13 business owners said “yes,” 10 said “no,” and the other 10 didn’t clearly voice a preference.

If the promenade does return, officials are confident the new iteration will be an improvement on the more hastily planned feature last year. Frisco Communications Director Vanessa Agee said the town is planning on implementing a number of aesthetic improvements like more lighting, flowers, public art and passive spaces for individuals to rest in the shade. She noted the town is also looking to improve signage and wayfinding this summer — so that community members understand they’re entering the promenade — and providing “bread crumbs” to businesses outside the area.

Community Development Director Don Reimer said staff would also be installing new barriers to slow bicyclists as they’re crossing through the promenade and are working with businesses to address noise concerns. Finally, Public Works Director Jeff Goble said the town would install new variable message signs, speed signs and other traffic-calming measures to ensure motorists aren’t speeding on side roads and that they know where to park.

“I think it’s going to be a much better summer than last summer as far as traffic on Granite,” Goble said. “I know that was a huge concern for many citizens that live along that road, but I believe we have the proper signage and plans to keep people slowing down, paying attention to what they’re doing and not just flying down Granite as a thoroughfare through town.”

But not everyone agreed. Council member Andy Held opposed the promenade’s return, in part because he felt the town lacked the infrastructure to support it.

“If Granite was built out completely with bike lanes and everything else, that might be different,” Held said. “Same with Galena, as needing more infrastructure. If Summit Boulevard was complete, then we have some infrastructure to support it. At this point, we’re looking to throw a wrench into a traffic situation, which none of us can put our finger on.”

Held also said he was hesitant to pull the trigger on the promenade knowing some businesses in town would be left out and that he feared those businesses could suffer if promenade users didn’t feel the need to venture outside the amenity.

Council member Dan Fallon agreed.

“We’re investing money to create a very concentrated zone of commercial activity to the exclusion of other businesses,” Fallon said. “At the end of the day, we are, as a public entity, investing in businesses to improve their business, and absent any kind of public health order, that’s all we’re doing. … I would offer if we’re going to spend money on these businesses — retail, restaurant, otherwise — then we need to think about writing checks to every business that’s outside the promenade to create a more equitable situation. That’s one of those hyperbolic hypotheticals, but really to put things in perspective, that’s what we’d really need to do.”

Other council members said traffic concerns would be present in Frisco regardless with the Colorado Department of Transportation gap project set to begin, and they didn’t want to see the opportunity lost to benefit the town as a whole. They also said the town could be flexible to ensure that the promenade is working as well as possible while it’s up and that it could be taken down if necessary.

“We are providing a benefit for our town,” Council member Andrew Aerenson said. “Some will win more than others. … With all that’s going on with traffic, construction, we need a reason to bring people in. … With all due love and respect to our restaurants, I don’t view them as being so much better than the restaurants in Silverthorne or Breckenridge that people are going to take the extra effort. We need to provide our visitors with an additional reason to come to Frisco, especially this summer because they’re going to have to fight through the mess.”


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