About 25 people attended the Main Street Recommendations Workshop at Stage Right Studio, 68 South Main St. to hear how three experts would redesign downtown Woonsocket to make it more accessible and business-friendly.
First, Eunice Kim from the Cecil Group, who outlined many of the public's suggestions for the downtown/Main Street area. She said they'd focused their efforts on those suggestions, choosing changes that would make the area more attractive and safer.
While there are good elements of Main Street, Kim said, like Stadium Theatre and Chans, more work needs to be done to connect those elements, "So people have a reason, if they go to Chan's, for example, to walk down and see the other things that are there," she said.
Kim said they studied ways to create an outdoor cafe atmosphere on Main Street, encourage more live-work units and encourage artists studios and galleries.
She also suggested using an overlay district to allow tempoarary uses on Main Street like pop-up retail shops and food trucks. Kim showed photos of a largely unused open market area in one city where food trucks were brought in during the work week, creating a busy lunchtime spot for area businesses. Under-used areas of Main Street could also be used for art installations, outdoor theatre or urban agriculture, she said.
Francisco Gomes from Fitzgerald & Halliday echoed comments made earlier in week by Economic Development Director Matt Wojcik about parking availalble to serve Main Street. "We have a lot of excess capacity in your parking," Gomes said, but people don't know where.
The biggest change Gomes suggested was turning several streets along Main Street into two-way streets, which he said could be done with minimal loss of on-street parking in the area. High Street could be converted with the loss of just three parking spots. Arnold Street would lose eight spots. Clinton Street would lose three spots. "So all told, it's about 25 spaces that would be lost," Gomes said. But allowing two-way traffic through those areas of Main Street and around the downtown area would make getting to Main Street destinations much easier, he said, and make Main Street a more attractive destination.
Phil Goff from Alta Planning and Design said you have to be already familiar with the area to know where parking is. He suggested directing drivers to the parking with signs, which he said the city might be able to get a grant to help pay for.
Goff also pointed out how much traffic Truman Drive can handle compared to how much traffic actually passes along it - 9,000 cars per day versus 40,000. "Truman Drive is really ripe for a road diet," Goff said.
Goff suggested paring down Truman Drive to a two-lane road, freeing up about 30 feet of space for a bike path with a gradual ramp up to the Court Street Bridge, providing access to Main Street.
Councilman Christopher Beauchamp said the RIPTA bus stop on Main Street causes a lot of accidents, and ought to be moved. "I agree with you and we are looking at some locations that are more realistic," Goff said. One member of the crowd suggested space along Clinton Street, which has a lot of space to spare.
"People need to feel safe on Main Street," said Larry Poitras. He said most people who see shows at Stadium Theatre are from out of town and don't know where they're going in the dark after a performance. He suggested bringing walking beat policemen back to the city.
One member of the crowd asked Goff how to get started. "I think the idea is to tackle it one thing at a time," Goff said, doing what the city can afford slowly, taking advantage of grant money to start the changes. "We're identifying a lot of low-hanging fruits here," Goff said.