Street closures in downtown Ann Arbor will be extended for restaurant and retail use through Nov. 1, the Ann Arbor City Council approved in an ordinance Monday evening.
Beginning Sept. 1, the following streets will be closed off to cars starting Thursday at 3 p.m. and ending Monday at 6 p.m.:
- Main Street from William to Washington
- West Liberty Street from Ashley to Main
- East Liberty Street from Main to Fourth
West Washington St. from Ashley to Main will be closed to cars 24/7 under the resolution.
In March, the city passed a resolution to allow weekly street closures from Thursday to Monday to safely open businesses outdoors during the pandemic. Due to positive feedback from community members throughout the summer, the city will be extending the street closures into the fall.
Ann Arbor resident Harry Cohen, owner of the Black Pearl on Main St., told City Council the street closures have been an effective and positive approach to building community while remaining safe amid the pandemic.
“We love what you guys did,” Cohen said. “It’s such a beautiful example of government and commerce working together. The street closures are so wonderful for the community and for the businesses, specifically the restaurant businesses.”
The final ordinance passed unanimously, with Councilmember Erica Briggs, D-Ward 5, absent.
The initial proposal shortened weekly closures by one day, prohibiting cars from Friday — instead of Thursday — until Monday.
Ann Arbor restaurant owner Steven Hall said shortening the street closures would disrupt local businesses by decreasing revenue, harming employees who are still recovering from the toll of the pandemic.
“I think that change to shorten the hours would be a huge disruption for downtown businesses,” Hall said. “I think it would really limit the working hours of many downtown employees, and I think all of them could really use the support these days.”
On Aug. 5, Washtenaw County announced that local COVID-19 transmission levels have increased to “substantial” levels and strongly recommended all individuals wear masks indoors. Hall added that the rise in cases should encourage the council to keep the current street closure period, particularly as University of Michigan students and families begin moving back to the city.
“With cases rising and the end of the season (being) only two months away, I think the importance for outdoor dining seems very obvious,” Hall said. “Students, parents, football crowds — I think discouraging people to mingle indoors is probably smart.”
An amendment to continue street closures on Thursday was approved by the council after being proposed by Councilmember Linh Song, D-Ward 2, during the City Council discussion portion of the meeting.
Councilmember Ali Ramlawi, D-Ward 5, questioned whether closing West Washington St. to cars all week was fair to businesses on other streets that are only closed from Thursday to Sunday.
“I believe in equity and fairness, and there are others who also have asked for seven day closures who have not been granted that,” Ramlawi said. “In the spirit of fairness, I believe that West Washington should be treated just like all the other streets in this resolution, and be closed from Thursday to Sunday, and not 24/7.”
Councilmember Jen Eyer, D-Ward 4, said she would be open to considering more street closures in other areas and for longer periods of time given the positive feedback the council has received.
“I would love to see us consider expanding and extending these — I’m going to call them street openings — to commercial restaurant and pedestrian activity throughout the entire week,” Eyer said. “I’m all for exploring that, as well as Main Street on football Saturdays and whatever else our local businesses are telling us would be useful and our local community members are telling us they enjoy.”
Daily News Editor Kristina Zheng can be reached at email@example.com.