CRAIN'S DETROIT BUSINESS: Open Streets events to turn major Detroit roads into car-free zones

BY ADRIENNE ROBERTS VIA CRAIN'S DETROIT BUSINESS

Open Streets Detroit will cover 3.7 miles beginning at Campus Martius Park in downtown Detroit, running past Roosevelt Park in Corktown and Clark Park, and ending at Boyer Playfield at Livernois Avenue and Vernor Highway.

Major sections of Michigan Avenue and Vernor Highway in Detroit will be closed to vehicle traffic on Sept. 25 and Oct. 2 to allow pedestrians and bicyclists to experience the city's streets and discover local businesses.

At a news conference on a sunny and warm Tuesday morning at Clark Park in southwest Detroit — which is along the event's route — the Downtown Detroit Partnership and city officials emphasized that weather would be key to the success of Detroit's first Open Streets program.

Open Streets Detroit will cover 3.7 miles beginning at Campus Martius Park in downtown Detroit, running past Roosevelt Park in Corktown and Clark Park, and ending at Boyer Playfield at Livernois Avenue and Vernor Highway. Both days the streets will be closed noon-5 p.m. for activities including youth soccer and dance workshops, performances and exercise classes.

"We understand the significance of this as we step into an expanded view of alternative mobility," said Eric Larson, CEO of the DDP. "The DDP is very focused on the infrastructure planning that will allow for these different types of mobility to take place throughout the city …"

He said the event also serves to highlight local businesses, with more than 75 community partners interested in engaging along the route. One of these businesses is Astro Coffee, located along Michigan Avenue in Corktown.

"(Michigan) Avenue has presented a lot of challenges over the years — it's very wide and there's been a lot of efforts to make it more walkable and safer," said Dai Hughes, owner of Astro Coffee. "It's very important in this rapidly changing city that we consider public space, inclusiveness and tolerance as we move into the future and the leadership that goes with that."

Janet Attarian, deputy director of the city's planning and development department, said she hopes to make Open Streets an annual event, at the very least. She said the first two events will be a test as to how to close streets and not cause significant confusion.

Attarian said the city has more plans in the works for ways to connect its neighborhoods to downtown and get people participating in healthy activities in the city. She said there will be two more pop-up events late in the fall and next spring that are similar to the short-term "pop-up" bike lanes on Livernois Avenue.

Lisa Nuszkowski, executive director of Detroit Bike Share, is leading the Open Streets Detroit effort. Detroit Bike Share, the city's first public bike share system, is scheduled to begin operating in the spring.

The launch of Open Streets Detroit is part of an international movement called Open Street initiatives. More than 200 cities have ongoing Open Street programs, most modeled after the weekly program in Bogota, Colombia, that opens more than 70 miles of city streets to pedestrians. That program got its start in the 1970s.

"Open Streets has been successful in many other cities across the world," said Faye Nelson, vice president of DTE Energy Co. and president of the DTE Energy Foundation. "It will connect and showcase our neighborhoods, support local businesses, draw visitors from near and far and engage family and friends."

Opens Streets Detroit is supported by the DTE Energy Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, among other groups.

The cost of the event and the number of people expected to attend were not disclosed.

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