Changes in the alley


The Warren City Council Traffic & Safety Committee has not been the most exciting story in town since I started following local politics. But freshman council member Mark Forte (D-4) seems to take his role as committee chairman seriously and some real issues have not only been discussed, but even resolved under his watch.

Six weeks or so ago, a group of about 20 residents and business owners whose apartments or workspaces abut Dave Grohl Alley, petitioned the city to close a portion the alley to vehicular traffic. They argued that the western end, near Main Street, is so narrow that it was too dangerous to allow cars and trucks. A hearing was held, and according to Safely Service Director Enzo Cantalamessa, he expects to have that section of the alley closed in approximately 30 days.

For those of you wondering, “why not immediately?” there are legitimate reasons for why these things take some time.

Another group of interested parties attended the T&S meeting this past Monday to discuss also closing the eastern end of the alley to permit its use for entertainment activities. The entrance to the recently opened Modern Methods Brewing Company rests under the covered portion of the alley, and the owner would love to be able to allow customers to sit outside in a patio-like atmosphere while enjoying a locally brew craft beverage. This led to a review of the legal issues by Law Director Greg Hicks. According to Hicks, it is possible for Warren to designate an “outdoor refreshment” district within the city limits. There are a host of legal and safety issues related to that, but essentially, if the Mayor requests it, and specifies the boundaries of the district, plus additional restrictions such as permitted hours, it can then become law if city council votes to approve it.

Given the recent growth downtown and the general optimism for the future of downtown as an entertainment district, I think this idea is going to get more serious consideration. In the best of worlds it will still take months and months to enact. If you hate the idea there’s no need to worry now as there will be ample opportunities for public comments before any action is taken.

One key requirement of state law is that an outdoor refreshment district must include at least four permit holders within the boundaries of the district. At the moment it is hard to draw lines like that without crossing Market Street. Mayor Franklin, who attended the meeting, specifically stated that crossing Market with an open container represents a significant safety issue in his mind.

The T&S committee is also looking at downtown parking and use of the parking deck. Stay tuned.

Posted Thursday, June 21st, 2018 under Economic development.

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