5/30/2013 - As part of a pilot program last summer, Manchester closed a section of Hanover Street to traffic on weekend nights to open up a more pedestrian-friendly environment in an area of the city known for shops and eateries.
Business owners liked it so much, they’d like the city to try it again this summer.
The idea was to increase vibrancy in the city’s downtown, further implanting the idea the Queen City, particularly downtown, is a destination, officials said. The closure resulted in more outdoor seating and live music. Several restaurants, including Ignite, Hooked and Penuche’s, took advantage of the expanded seating.
Chuck Kalatzes, owner of Penuche’s, was among those pushing for the closure last year. He hired bands to play each night so Hanover Street patrons were treated to live tunes while they shopped and ate. Bands had been positioned as though they were playing to the entire street.
“Oh yeah, it was great,” said Ashley Bradicich, manager at Penuche’s. “It was a big part of our summer. Live music always brings people out.”
Customers said they loved it last year. Many have already inquired about doing it again this year, Bradicich said.
“We haven’t heard any negative feedback,” Bradicich said.
Officials say a plan for this year is in the works. Mayor Ted Gatsas, who only had positive things to say about the closure, said Alderman Patrick Long was coordinating a plan with Hanover Street business owners.
“It was very successful,” Gatsas said. “We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback.”
Gatsas figured most aldermen would be on board with a closure plan again this year. He expected the plan to look similar to last year’s pilot program in execution. Last summer, the street was closed between Chestnut Street and the Citizens Bank Garage access way from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. every Friday and Saturday.
Jay Minkarah, the former director of the city’s economic development office, said last summer people had different viewpoints on the street closing. Closing the street to traffic has been talked about off and on for years. Some people want to make the section a pedestrian-only street every day, all year long. Others like closing it just on weekends. Still, others don’t like the idea of closing it to traffic at all, Minkarah said.
Gatsas did say he heard from one business owner on Manchester Street who complained that since traffic was closed on Hanover Street, there were parking issues on Manchester Street.