April's 2nd Friday Art Walk was different for a number of reasons — it featured the ribbon cutting for the first new building downtown in decades and Normanites showed up eager to put the recent cold, rainy weekends behind them. The biggest change, of course, was the fact that Main Street was closed to vehicles between Webster and Porter.
It's a change that some individuals have been calling for; in fact, some believe Main Street downtown should permanently be a no-go zone for vehicles. We're not ready to endorse that idea, especially with the additional traffic expected to head downtown with the eventual two-way Gray Street and James Garner Avenue extension.
Even shutting down Main Street for an evening can be controversial, but we think it should be a permanent change, particularly during the summer months. Closing Main Street creates the potential for 2nd Friday Art Walk to expand into an even more robust street festival, one with a variety of kid-friendly attractions and outdoor live music. With new establishments like The Meating Place and BIG Brew Co. coming downtown, a future tenant on the first floor of Gabriel Bird's new building and exterior work being done on downtown buildings, downtown is thriving, and 2nd Friday Art Walk will continue to be a big part of that.
Street closures can be rough on merchants, but partnering with 2nd Friday Art Walk to bring the increased foot traffic into downtown businesses could more than offset any lost business from car traffic.
Shutting down Main Street is the next logical step for the art walk and, if handled correctly, will benefit everyone involved.