(July 14, 2020) Following the Rockland City Council meeting, July 13, Winter and Myrtle streets are now approved for partial street closures through October 31.
Winter Street’s closure is approved to take affect immediately. The Strand, CMCA, and Dowling Walsh all expressed their approval of the temporary closure.
The Myrtle Street Tavern has requested to postpone the closure until Friday, July 31, which is the first day they’ll be open for business. Service hours on City property are allowed no later than 9 p.m.
Council also approved the closure of a portion of Orient Street, though the actual location of public outdoor space is still to be negotiated between Rock City Cafe, Camden National, and the Rockland City Manager.
ROCKLAND – The next Rockland City Council meeting, July 13, will consider summer street closures for Winter, Myrtle, and Orient streets.
Following two experimental weekends of closing Downtown Main Street in its entirety as a way to allow eating establishments to spill out onto the sidewalks this summer, Council has not moved forward with repeat closures. However, other ideas continue to germinate, such as closing small side streets.
With Oak Street now closed for Cafe Miranda and Fog, which is hoping to start outside karaoke at some point, other organizations are requesting similar closures.
If approved, Main Street to the Dowling Walsh Art Gallery parking lot would be closed until October. This would allow both Dowling Walsh and Atlantic Baking Company to bring their displays and merchandise out into the open. Tables and seating for ABC would remain outside throughout the closure as they would be hard to move, according to City Manager Tom Luttrell during the July 6 Council agenda-setting meeting.
“I think this is a wonderful thing for ABC,” said Councilor Ed Glaser. “I think this is a wonderful thing for Downtown to have a pastry garden, as it were.”
The problem for Glaser is that the Strand Theatre informed him of its disapproval due to access limitations for its tour buses, equipment trucks, and loading dock.
The closure, according to Councilors Valli Geiger and Ben Dorr, is very small and would not interfere with access to CMCA, the Strand loading dock, and the Tilson Municipal Parking Lot. The closure would, however, require the delivery trucks and buses to enter from the opposite end of Winter Street.
As a result of a 2-3 vote, Council voted to postpone the order to close Winter Street until the July 13 meeting, giving the Strand time to weigh in.
The Strand has not yet reopened for business.
The vote was Councilors Valli Geiger and Ben Dorr in favor of voting immediately. Councilors Glaser, Nate Davis, and Mayor Lisa Westkaemper voted in favor of postponement.
A closure of a mid-section of Myrtle Street is also proposed so that the Myrtle Street Tavern could bring its bar business outside. Indoor bars in Maine are not yet allowed to reopen, but outdoor alcohol establishments are permitted.
Myrtle Street would remain open along the Hill’s Seafood property, closed for the Tavern, and reopen at the pharmacy access to Walgreens.
Rock City Cafe is hoping to have a small piece of street access for their patrons, from Main Street to the entrance of Camden National Bank.
According to Luttrell, the branch manager at the Bank has a lot of reservations regarding the closure.
“They really feel that they need that area for their customers to leave,” said Luttrell. “Orient Street is one-way, so the drive-thru would not be able to exit down Orient Street.”
The City Manager continues to work with others regarding Main Street proper. An idea still in consideration is a permanent seasonal closure of two-lane traffic, leaving one traffic lane snaking down the middle, closing the street to parking, and allowing venues to spill out onto both sidewalks.
Glaser expressed concerns regarding ADA parking spaces, which Luttrell promised to address during the design phase.
About the city’s unexpected opportunity to improve its Downtown, Dorr said, “It’s been challenging at times, but I think that we’ve landed in a place that we feel like most people can support….Hopefully we are doing work now that is necessary – to allow businesses to survive – but that will also translate into long-term changes that create a more dynamic and vibrant Main Street.”
Reach Sarah Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org