Dew Downtown Divides Downtown Merchants
Downtown Flagstaff businesses are divided over the street closures accompanying the Dew Downtown Urban Skiing and Snowboarding Festival this weekend. While the city and some businesses say the event will give downtown a much-needed economic boost during its slowest economic month, other property owners say closing a vital street hurts their businesses in a variety of ways.
The festival will close N. San Francisco Street between Birch and Dale Avenues so that snow can be trucked in for participants to use.
In opposition to the plan is Gordon Watkins, who owns and operates a bed-and-breakfast — the Inn at 410 — on an adjacent street. He said any closure of N. San Francisco would likely have consequences for neighboring roads.
“Our neighborhood was asked last year if we wanted to hold this event on N. Leroux St., and we said absolutely not,” Watkins said. “Moving it one street over makes no difference to us. It’s a major generator of traffic, noise, litter, people — that crush on this neighborhood is just not what we want to see.”
Watkins said there are many downtown businesses who feel they will be negatively effected by the closure.
“I took up a petition and got over a hundred signatures from restaurants like Brix, Criollo, Mountain Oasis and Karma, from not only the owners, but the employees as well — who are very concerned on this important holiday weekend that people will be able to have access to their businesses and we won’t be adversely impacted by the crush of traffic that ultimately will happen,” Watkins said.
Mark Lamberson owns Mountain Sports downtown. As one of the original sponsors of the plan, he said he is excited to see what it yields.
“With all those events I mentioned [being] downtown, there’s never been a parking plan,” Lamberson said. “This is the first time there’s been a permanent event downtown with an off-street parking plan. Several hundred off-street parking spaces will be designated for overflow parking, with parking ambassadors and maps. We’re excited to give it a try.”
Steve Chatinsky runs Peace Surplus, a sports retailer located at the corner of Rt. 66 and Leroux Street. He said he regularly has to deal with downtown closures, and he hopes that any business blocked off by the closed street still gets customers through their door.
“I hope for the one or two days, [customers] will walk to their business and think about giving them some extra business,” Chatinsky said. “When downtown is closed to traffic on Leroux, people can’t turn into my building because the left turn lane is closed off. I don’t sit down and complain about it. It’s called life. It’s for the better of Flagstaff. It’s not all about me.”
The festival goes on this weekend, and N. San Francisco St. re-opens on Sunday evening.
A different version of this story was written by the reporter for Flagstaff Business News.