The Future of Open Streets on Main

For the past three summers Salt Lake City has enjoyed an event known as Open Streets on Main where Main St. closes down to cars for the summer and the space opens up to pedestrians. The event was created in an effort to combat the socio-economic effects of the pandemic and created a covid-compliant space where consumers felt safe returning to public. 

Open Streets on Main has seen extreme success in past years with both residents and business owners. In some cases even boosting revenue up to 19%, according to The Department of Economic Development. However, now that covid-era emergency orders have ended, the popular event finds itself strung up in red-tape and won’t be returning this summer. 

Previously, the emergency status had designated the streets as legal sidewalks to allow for social-distancing, a legal technicality which made the ‘Open-Streets’ initiative possible. 

The event may be temporarily postponed but city officials are hopeful that Open Streets on Main will be making a come-back in September or October of this year. Andrew Wittenberg, spokesman for the Mayor’s Office shared that, “Salt Lake City is in the process of identifying permit changes and coordinating public safety measures to ensure the activation is a safe space for all.”

Mayor Erin Mendenhall, in conjunction with the Redevelopment Agency of Salt Lake City (RDA) even have plans to make Open-Streets on Main a permanent fixture in Salt Lake City. However the project does not yet have an estimated date of completion as it is still in the early stages of development. 

In charge of this project is Peter Makowski of the Department of Economic Development, who has expressed his desire to learn from similar ventures in other states such as Denver’s 16th Street. “There are so many similarities between Denver and Salt Lake,” said Makowski. “They are a little ahead of us in growth but we are definitely looking at 16th Street and we are learning from it. We plan on traveling to those districts, visiting and meeting with officials to learn as much about what to do as what not to do and what didn’t work so we can avoid those mistakes.”

While Salt Lake City has seen little pushback to ‘Open-Street’ initiatives, as exemplified by New York City’s attempt back in 2020, programs like these can often leave out those who need it most. Moving forward Mayor Erin Mendenhall and city officials might take into consideration how this project could disproportionately affect low-income areas. 

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Michaelis Lyons
Michaelis Lyons
Michaelis is a current Editorial Intern for Salt Lake Magazine and a recent graduate from Westminster College.

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