ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Closing down a major St. Petersburg street for walkers and bikers. It’s a new concept being tested out on Central Avenue this weekend just in time for Halloween.
Organizers of the event from the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership’s Car Free St. Pete initiative hope it will become a permanent staple in the future.
“Envision a safe street with even more art, more stuff happening on the sidewalks where you can run into your neighbor and have a conversation. I think it would be a great thing for St. Pete,” explained Nicole Roberts, who is organizing Halloween on Central.
Imagine concepts like the Lincoln Road Mall in Miami or the 16th Street Mall in Denver coming to St. Petersburg.
Business owner Jeff Schorr of Craftsman House Gallery and Café and Truffula Eco Boutique loves the idea. “You notice a lot more things walking as opposed to driving so people pop into businesses more so I think it would promote business and a sense of community and be a lot of fun,” he explained.
On Sunday, October 31, 22 blocks of Central Avenue will be closed to cars from MLK 9th Street to 31st Street. Organizers hope the event will help Grand Central and Edge District businesses thrive and allow everyone to see what a car-free corridor could look like.
“So almost two miles of St Petersburg’s heart is going to be car-free. We are encouraging people to bring out their bikes, skateboards, roller skates, anything you can use to enjoy the street in a way you may not have been able to before,” Roberts added.
St. Petersburg leaders tell ABC Action News they’re not quite ready to consider closing down Central Avenue to cars permanently just yet, but it is a good preview of things to come in St. Pete as the city becomes less car-centric.
There is one concern. If Central Avenue closes to cars, where will everyone park?
“I think it’s a great idea but parking, that’s pretty tough especially for us that we are here all day,” explained Francesco Sorrentino of Italy Bodega. “But hopefully if they do some kind of parking lot or a free parking lot, it would be nice and great.”
Organizers say there are some kinks to work out in the long run, but Sunday’s free event from12PM-5PM will be a great trial run.
“After the event we would love to meet with city leaders and see how the community responded, if this is an idea that makes sense and work from there to see if this is something we can implement in the future,” Roberts explained.
Roberts added that she recently met with members of the International Downtown Association. She met with leaders from Boise, Idaho, who mentioned they which recently added a car-free corridor and consumer activity increased 30 percent.
For Sunday’s event, you can park at Tropicana Field for $10. Organizers are also encouraging people to use non-car methods to get to the event. Roberts says PSTA is offering free rides to the event for those wearing a Halloween costume.
Central Avenue will be closed along those 22 blocks from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday.