Downtown Colorado Inc (DCI) had our eighth webinar of the series covering various topics on the response to COVID-19 and how people can support each other while maintaining the CDC’s recommendation of social distancing. Thursday’s call focused on ideas and approaches to consider when reopening becomes an option.
Matthew Bossler, PLA, of SHIFT Planning and Design, LLC shared suggestions and examples of solutions for converting outdoor spaces into additional restaurant seating to follow social distancing guidelines when places reopen. Along with outdoor spaces for restaurant use there is a coinciding adjustment needed for liquor licenses. DCI has worked with our District Committee, made up of Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) and Downtown Development Authorities (DDAs) from around the state and our DCI Board Member, Rick Kron, to draft a letter to Governor Polis asking for an executive order concerning liquor license adjustments to be made at the local level during these unprecedented times to allow municipalities to determine how best to extend the area where service can be provided to help businesses survive.
COVID-19 has impacted everybody, especially restaurants, retail businesses, and personal care service businesses. Restaurants and retail businesses have been able to minimize the amount of people inside their establishments by doing curbside pickups and delivery service. Personal care service businesses are slowly opening up with new rules to follow social distancing guidelines. As the state slowly opens, and people are allowed to come outside of their homes for less essential items, there is a need for space that accommodates social distancing guidelines. Consumers are cautiously coming out of their homes, but many are still hesitant since there is still much uncertainty of controlling the spread of COVID-19. Adaptation of outdoor spaces will be a very important tool in extending restaurant and business space and building consumer trust during the initial reopening stage.
Initial Reopening Stage Components
Modification of Public Space: How can we redesign open spaces for safety and social distancing?
Ensure Main Street Survives: How can communities avoid block after block of empty storefronts?
Public space modification will be very important to ensure there is plenty of opportunity for pedestrians and consumers to practice social distancing. Looking at the current state of public space and what needs to be modified is an important step in taking the needed action.
5 foot sidewalk space to pass outdoor diners
Need closer to 10-12 foot clearway with social distancing 6 feet guidelines
Multiple Travel traffic Lanes
Convert the travel lane into the parallel parking lane, and make the parallel parking lane into outdoor seating area for nearby restaurants with barrier between diners and moving cars
Parallel Parking Lanes between travel lane and sidewalk
Put Parklets in the parallel parking zone, and have area that is for curbside pickup zone
Parking lots that are under capacity
Use as an outdoor space with social distancing guidelines for restaurants and businesses
Critical Partners to Help Implement Adaptations
Rural Community Consideration
Many rural communities have main streets that are wide state highways. Colorado rural communities need to collaborate with CDOT and emphasize how important the outdoor space modification solutions are to assist in supporting their local businesses and economies. Collaboration with state representatives and governmental entities will further help in working with CDOT.
Street As Marketplaces Presentation
Matthew Bossler’s put together the Street As Marketplaces Presentation with ideas and examples for reopening in outdoor spaces. See the Street As Marketplaces Presentation for the full presentation which includes more info on the topics below..
Steps for Looking at Modification Ideas
Start with a list of obstacles that exist for distancing
For each hindrance, list the possible solutions that can be done at the local level
For each hindrance, list the possible solutions that can be done at the state level
Knowing your organizational structures will help to identify what entity can be your district champion.
See the Street As Marketplaces Presentation for examples.
Make it Attainable: Break it into Phases
- Citywide organization and advocacy
- One-page process guidance to businesses
-Initial pilots (main street focused)
- Citywide organization and advocacy
- Pattern book for each commercial district type
- Second-phase pilots (other than main street)
- Application to rest of city; coordination with other cities
See the Street as Marketplaces Presentation for more info
(Source: Matthew Bossler, Street as Marketplaces Presentation)
- CO COVID RELIEF FUND (<$25K) – Next deadline: May 16
- Business Improvement District / DDA rainy-day funds
- Municipal business assistance grants
- Contracts for strategic program development (via commissioners/council/executive decree, etc.)
- Impacted businesses (Staff Training, Physical Resources, Insurance extensions, consultant/non-profit support)
- Community groups (RNOs, non-profits)
- Civic resources (botanic gardens, convention centers, etc.)
- Economic Development Authority (EDA)’s CARES Act funding
- Economic Recovery Planning and Technical Assistance Grants
- State/local govt. recovery and resiliency strategies,
- Reallocation of funds earmarked for tangential transportation planning and economic development projects
- CITY FUNDING
- EXECUTIVE BRANCH (PUBLIC HEALTH, DOE, DOTI, CPD, OSE, ETC.)
- DEDICATED PUBLIC STAFF HOURS (including police as security?)
- DEDICATED PHYSICAL RESOURCES (railings, trash cans, barricades, etc.)
QUESTIONS + ANSWERS
The question we need to ask ourselves for our communities is What can we put in place so that when we get the go -ahead to reopen, we are ready and have the least amount of barriers?
If we can collect some seed money to get this started, where/how do we spend the money to get it going successfully?
Reach out to private consultants and nonprofit consultants. They are still open and are dedicated to this work. Show the dedication to the implementation, continue to have conversation, coordination and work with city staff and other community stakeholders. Set a goal for having 2 pilots of the implementation.
How will you handle alcohol in a larger environment; i.e. how to get across sidewalks, into parking lots. Most licenses are restricted to the existing space?
We are currently working on this, through the drafting of the letter to send to the governor for the decision to be made at the local level. Continue asking state electives for the needed rapid change or temporary reprieve so that we can help businesses survive. Also look into common consumption areas and entertainment districts and the possibility in expediting the creation of them. Also consider liability packages that could cover multiple businesses in one area.
From a design perspective, it would seem prudent to accommodate greater bicycle travel and bike parking. (Parking spaces will be lost and should be addressed.) These can be done simply as corrals - either roped off or cordoned off in some other manner. The setting should be aesthetically pleasing and easy to get into/through. Other suggestions?
For the aesthetics aspect lean onto existing entities such as a parks & recreations department or botanical garden. Reach out to nurseries who could provide planters , hay bales, straw bales and other resources rapidly for creating bike lanes. There is also a cheaper option of buckets with concrete and a post to attach ropes along the bike lane, even though that isn’t as aesthetically pleasing. Pallets can be used to make bike racks. Bicycles play an important role in crowd control and social distancing.
Downtowns are vital, so levelling up the quality of material in the downtown area is something to consider. Other things to consider include if there is a concern about loss of parking from bike lanes, on street dining would cause the same loss of parking.
Another thing to consider is that the use of parallel parking for on street dining takes away the pedestrian buffer that parked cars provide between traveling cars and sitting people. Look at the possibility of pushing the parallel parking lane one lane closer to the center lane.
Any advice on how to approach parklets or one-lane closures on main streets that are also business highways? e.g. Manitou downtown!
There is a precedent in Salida and Louisville, Colorado of converting parking into parklets. Neither of them are on highways but there is a precedent which helps. Long term parklets usually range around $25,000 per slot, but that includes the permitting process. The permitting process could possibly be reduced and simplified considering the current circumstances, which requires collaboration and conversation. There may be an opportunity for cheaper parklet solutions as well.
I understand there must be at least 5 feet of sidewalk space for people to pass by outdoor seating? Is that correct?
Realistically, with the social distancing guidelines of 6 feet it’s closer to 10-12 feet on both sides of diners since there needs to be space for people passing.
Streets As Marketplaces Presentation
Public Spaces Google Resources Folder
Liquor License Letter to the Governor
May 14th Call Recording
Matthew Bossler, PLA | SHIFT Planning and Design, LLC
Matthew’s 15 years of experience in planning, landscape architecture, ecological design, urban design, and public policy synthesize in practice at SHIFT Planning and Design, LLC. The core philosophy of SHIFT is to form planning and design solutions that encourage the evolution of our regions, cities, small areas, and properties within them, in order to better meet both immediate and future needs. At the city scale, Matthew advises decision-makers and guides community groups to form urban planning solutions that set the stage for quality urbanism. At the site scale, Matthew offers property owners, developers, and project partners rapid urban design and development scenario modeling, conceptual site plans and yield studies, as well as complete landscape construction documentation, including everything from urban plazas to naturalized riverfronts.