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Mass Ave street closure has varying impacts on businesses

Is the street closure something that could be a permanent set up?
Posted at 11:47 AM, Jun 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-30 11:47:14-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Areas of Mass Avenue have been closed to traffic for just over a month now.

City leaders say they've received positive feedback about the pedestrian-friendly setup, but for some business owners, it's just added to the struggle brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The closure of Mass Ave has been great for some business owners, specifically restaurant owners who have been able to add outdoor seating. Initially, there was quite a bit of an uproar, but city leaders say that has changed.

The vast majority of communications I've gotten mostly from the public has been positive, overwhelmingly positive. In fact, some people are saying 'can we just leave it this way?'" Zach Adam, D-District 17, City-County Councillor said.

Tracy Robertson, the owner of "Mass Ave Pub," said the street closure has been a game-changer.

"This has been one of our biggest challenges as a small business owner," Robertson, who's owned the Pub for almost 20 years, said

Prior to the street closure, the Pub was only offering carry out. Since adding the outdoor seating, Robertson says sales have tripled.

"And although we're not whole ... we're not where we were pre-covid, we're still doing much better than before," Robertson said.

Robertson says she knows to eliminate traffic and parking has not been as positive for some of her neighbors on the avenue. The shelves of Amy Minick Peterson's store "Decorate" have stayed pretty well stocked during the street closure.

"It's been a little bit difficult for our customers because we do sell some bigger items, so when people come in they don't exactly want to walk a huge distance to carry out a carpet, a rug, a lamp," - Peterson said.

The Decorate owner depends on the parking spots outside of her shop to load in home decor pieces for her clients, such as tables, mirrors, chairs. The closure of the avenue to traffic has almost made it more of a hassle for her customers to come to the store at all.

"So as much as we think it's great for the time period that we've been in, we're also looking forward to having our parking back," Peterson said.

Concerns for business owners like Peterson are why city leaders and other owners along Mass Ave feel its too soon to say if the street closure is something that sticks around.

"The possibility has been floated that we do this full time, it's been floated that we just do it during the summer … it's been floated that we just do it on weekends," Councilor Adamson said. "When we are not faced with a global pandemic or serious emergencies like this, we'll be able to have very long, engaged conversations with not just city people but community people with merchants to really carve out a path forward."

Robertson says she thinks, "it's worth talking about."

But for now, conversations about keeping Mass AVe a pedestrian thoroughfare are going to remain just that — conversations.