An informal proposal spearheaded by East Main Street business owners to make their street one-way from Royal Avenue to Chester Street at the Town Gazebo was presented to Council at a Monday, August 7 work session. Councilman William Sealock brought the agenda item forward. Sealock then presented Robert MacDougall as spokesman for the proposal.
MacDougall explained the request was that East Main Street become one way eastbound, flowing from Royal Avenue at the Afton Inn/Courthouse intersection toward Chester Street where East Main would remain two-way from Chester to Commerce Avenue.
MacDougall described planned angular parking, which he said was estimated to add 12 to 15 parking spaces along that stretch of East Main Street. That number is up from an estimate of six or seven additional spaces two years ago.
The one-way East Main Street proposal was initially brought to council in January 2015 by the Mayor’s Economic Development Committee. Then Mayor Tim Darr recommended a survey of all East Main Street business owners to gain a perspective on their consensus on the change.
Minutes from a council work session of January 20, 2015, note that Mayor Darr informed council the economic committee felt it was a “very important” change for the East Main Street portion of the downtown business district. However, Darr added that gaining a clear majority consensus of impacted business owners was crucial to proceeding with such a change. The decision would be council’s “to make after much consideration and input from the community,” Mayor Darr said.
Then Vice-Mayor Hollis Tharpe wondered if the economic committee recommendation shouldn’t first be reviewed by the planning commission prior to council moving toward a decision.
You know what they say about “things change but they stay the same” – following Councilman Sealock’s summary of the current status of what he described as the initiative of a few Main Street landlords and businesses, as opposed to the formal committee of two years earlier, now Mayor Tharpe suggested getting the recommendation “to the planning commission as soon as possible.”
The issue of commercial delivery truck access was raised, as it was two years ago. The potential solution was/is believed to be back entrance access along two, two-way streets, Jackson to the south and Peyton to the north of East Main Street.
Noting his own move from the town’s west side to its east side, Councilman John Connolly worried that for those traveling downtown from the west, the plan could be a disincentive to going to the Main Street business district.
However, Town Planning Director Jeremy Camp noted that traffic would still be able to enter East Main Street from Commerce Avenue traveling west up to Chester Street at the Gazebo, then would be directed north onto Chester Street and almost immediate access to two large parking areas within a block. Those are the Peyton Street parking lot that stretches the length of East Main between Chester and Crescent Street at the Afton Inn; and the parking lot at the Village Commons circling the Gazebo and Tourist Center.
Camp told council and the mayor the proposal would be taken to the planning commission the following week for review.
One interesting observation came from Councilman Jacob Meza. Meza commented on the relative benefit of creating a one-way street versus a walking mall as found in Winchester’s old town. And if one were to look far enough into East Main Street’s future with the recent positive announcements about re-development, including of the “nouveau Barnhart” parcels on the 100 block, the Weaver Building, not to mention the Afton Inn rebuilding plan with a number of new restaurants and beer gardens in those plans; it is not too big a stretch to envision East Main Street eventually evolving into just such a walking mall between Royal Avenue and Chester Street.
But hey, that’s just Front Royal daydreaming, for now …