Reviving and energizing the downtown retailing sector was again the goal Tuesday of the Perry City Council, which ended its fiscal year by approving a public-private pilot program for the creation of up to four parklets and streateries on Second Street.
As their names imply, a parklet is a little park, and a streatery is an eatery in the street. The pilot program will allow private parties, such as bar owners or restaurateurs, to lease a pair of Second Street parking spaces and install outdoor amenities.
“This is something that’s been informally discussed for probably the last year,” Perry Community an Economic Director Mike Fastenau told the council, “but it’s something that is a result of the pandemic and businesses needing to restart and rejump and in addition we get a great deal of momentum downtown.”
Fastenau said the outdoor amenities have become popular in many large cities as a way “to enhance the aesthetics, vibrancy and economic vitality of the historic downtown.” He said the downtown merchants have expressed their enthusiastic support for the idea.
For motorists concerned with access to parking, Fastenau said there are some 550 parking spots within 1,000 feet of the intersection of Second and Warford streets, and the newly repaved city parking lot at Second and Pattee streets, once completed, will gain an additional eight slots beyond its prior size, equal in number to the parking places to be lost along Second Street to four streateries and parklets.
Council member Chuck Schott raised concerns about the possible noisiness of the streateries and the nuisance they might pose to residents living downtown.
“How late is the entertainment going to run? How loud can the entertainment be?” Schott said. “Can you assure me this will not be a problem.” He said residents contacted him in the past about loud music continuing late into the night as downtown restaurants.
Fastenau said the lease arrangements with the private businesses would stipulate hours of operation, and the rules would be enforced. If there were problems, he said, the city would have the authority to pull the permit from the noisy business.
Perry City Administrator Sven Peterson said the virus-imposed requirements for social distancing will probably continue for the next 12 to 18 months.
“So as much as this is a community-development-and-vibrancy project for a downtown, it’s also a business-relief project for the next basically 18 months,” Peterson said. “So that’s something to really keep in mind as far as providing an opportunity for these restaurants and businesses to have an outdoor space.”
He said users of the Raccoon River Valley Trail and the soon-to-open High Trestle Trail connector appear to prefer to use patios and outdoor dining areas “not only because of the pandemic and wanting to be outside in a safe environment, but it’s just kind of popular right now.”
Perry Mayor John Andorf said the parklets and streateries could help revive downtown business.
“Before this pandemic hit, we were really making great strides to bring people downtown,” Andorf said. “Now, I think, we need to try to maintain that and bring people downtown again and also support our businesses. All of use want to see our businesses survive, quite frankly, and this is one small step to move forward and make that happen.”
He said the privately developed public amenities would be handicap accessible and would comply with Americans with Disabilities Act sidewalk widths. The participating businesses would provide the maintenance and insurance on the portable expansions of usable space in front of their stores, which would be removed during winter months.
Without further discussion, Perry City Council members Dean Berkland, Vicki Klein and Barbara Wolling voted to approve the resolution authorizing the two-year pilot project, and Schott voted against approval. Council member Dr. Randy McCaulley was absent.
The next meeting of the Perry City Council is Monday, July 20 at 6 p.m. in the Clarion Room of the Security Bank Building at 1102 Willis Ave.