Idea To Close Part Of Public Square Draws Mixed Reaction

Idea To Close Part Of Public Square Draws Mixed Reaction

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Shut down one side of Public Square to traffic and create a pedestrian mall - that's the idea consultants working on Watertown's $10 million revitalization project have come up with.

The idea is to make downtown more pedestrian friendly.

"Right now the square is set up to move traffic in and out as quickly as possible and as efficiently as possible and it does a good job of that but it does a disservice to the businesses that are down here," said Cody Horbacz, city council member.

The idea surfaced at an open house Wednesday night. The consultants recommended closing the south side of the square and the lower part of Franklin Street and creating 2 lanes of traffic in each direction on the northside.

While this project would be 5 or 10 years down the road, it has some business owners on the south side worried now.

"It's almost like they're blocking us off, like shutting us off all together and I really don't like that," said April Johnson, owner of April's Cake Shop.

Johnson's big concern is losing the parking in front of her cake shop.

"Not only is it going to eliminate customers now that I'm fighting to get because of the parking, they're going to have to walk even farther. A lot of my customers and even myself am carrying out boxes of cakes," she said.

The consultants have suggested building a parking garage behind Franklin Street, but Johnson feels that shutting down the northside like the city does during block parties would be more feasible.

It's an idea the consultants say they are now testing.

But other business owners on the south side think shutting down their side of the square is more productive.

"I can see little bistro table sets and little tents and little shops out in front of the buildings on the south side of the square. I like it," said Jason Comet, owner Comet Music Studio.

This is just one idea being talked about after Watertown won the $10 million from the state in October.

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