Public forum draws comments, concerns
Posted on 05/12/2022
Restaurants expanded into the street with street closures. Photo by DDA.To garner public sentiment on downtown street closures, the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and City Council held a joint public forum on May 9 at City Hall, chaired by DDA Board Member Shawn Riley with an introduction by Mayor Brian Turnbull.

The two streets closed to traffic are E. Main from N. Center to Hutton and N. Center from E. Main to Dunlap. The current authorization for street closures runs through Nov. 1.

The DDA survey, active from April 11 - May 2, sought input from the community on whether or not the downtown street closures should continue (in some form) or reopen to vehicular traffic. Survey results, presented by Joe Blair, of Carlisle Wortman Associates, drew 4,053 responses. Of those, 74% were in favor of street closures (either one or both streets) and the vast majority (80%) wanted to keep the social district with 53% wanting to expand it. The social district will continue in the near future, regardless of whether the streets remain closed or reopen. Full survey results, including an extensive array of written comments, are posted on the DDA website.

DDA Director Lori Ward said, “we are pleased with the number of responses that we received from both the residential and business community. Their participation will provide important feedback to the DDA and City Council as we make decisions that will impact our community.”

Approximately 20 people out of 75 in the audience – in person and on Zoom – expressed their thoughts about Downtown Northville. Several wanted to see a better-looking streetscape – improve the appearance at the social district entrances. One longtime resident said traffic on the secondary streets is congested and drivers get impatient with all of the stop signs. Several said they liked the European feel, but one respondent said he and his family want a return to Small Town America with streets open to traffic.

One respondent suggested closed streets work well in high-density areas but, in Northville, they tend to draw people only on weekends not weekdays. A mother of young children said she likes the safety of closed streets when they are on those streets. Others said streets closures work better in warmer months.

Several said it’s important to look at lasting solutions, especially to help downtown retailers, services and restaurants thrive. It’s more than just those two streets that need consideration, others said, there should be a balanced solution for better traffic distribution along with input from traffic engineers.

Initially, the streets were closed due to pandemic restrictions that limited the number of people allowed inside businesses. The closed streets resulted in a greater surface area for social distancing and downtown restaurants and retailers were permitted to expand their outdoor dining and retail presence to help maintain sales during a difficult time. Northville was one of the first cities in the state to establish a social district.

The DDA will consider the survey results and other factors as they deliberate at their next meeting at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, May 17 in Meeting Room A of City Hall. The public is invited. When a decision is reached, the DDA plans to take their recommendation to City Council, aiming for the council’s June 6 meeting.

If you have any questions or comments, contact the DDA office at [email protected] or 248-349-0345. View the public forum video here.