Petition Drive Underway To Keep Public Square Open

Petition Drive Underway To Keep Public Square Open

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It's lunch time at Cam's Pizzeria in downtown Watertown and while Matt Strader is selling slices of pizza, he's also selling another idea.

"Parking's always a problem here. Well, if you want to sign your name there," he said.

He started a petition against closing any portion of Public Square. The idea of closing one side of the square to traffic and creating a pedestrian mall surfaced in connection to the city's $10 million revitalization grant from the state.

Strader says when he heard about the idea, his business life flashed before his eyes.

"The problem is there are long established merchants over there whose survival depends on having parking spaces in front of their stores, not trees," he said.

Strader started the petition last Friday and says he has gotten 8 to 10 pages of signatures from downtown shoppers.

He also brought the petition to downtown businesses. He says half a dozen owners said it would be the difference between staying open or not.

"Thirty merchants, 30 downtown merchants have signed it that agreed it would be detrimental to their welfare," said Strader.

One of those businesses that signed the petition is Johnny D's in the Paddock Arcade.

"I was glad to jump on board because I think the idea of closing down half the square, no matter which side it is, wouldn't be a good idea. We need to bring business back downtown, not chase it away," said Dave Bartlett, owner of Johnny D's.

Strader plans to bring the petition to city council in the near future, hoping he and other businesses can continue to get a piece of the pie.

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