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Could Syracuse Reimagine Downtown Streets, Parks to Help Reopening for Restaurants & Shops?

Michael John Heagerty Facebook

The City of Syracuse just started a program to help curbside pickup for restaurants and downtown shops by changing parking rules on several streets.  One entrepreneur would like to carry the idea much further to help businesses bounce back.

“It’s noteworthy that this is the least amount of vehicles I’ve ever seen in armory square, ever,” says Michael John Heagerty, as we stand on a corner near the MOST, Kitty Hoynes, Freedom of Espresso and other businesses impacted by the shutdown, last week.   

Heagerty has a hand in numerous Syracuse ventures, from Kitty Hoynes to Wildflowers Gallery to music and art events.  He says it’s in his DNA to reimagine hospitality. And curbside pickup is just a taste of how to help struggling businesses.

“There’s tons of spaces outside and there’s an excess of brck and concrete that could easily be shutoff to traffic.  It’s also quite easy to block the street and use the right half for seating and the left half for safety lane,” Heagerty adds. 

Credit Michael John Heagerty Facebook
This photo illustration shows expanded seating in Hanover Square that restaurants might use alongside retail businesses

There are plenty of examples in Europe but also right here with the Candlelight Series of downtown concerts that shutdown streets for music, while restaurants served people on the pavement.  Collaboration between otherwise dissimilar businesses could also help.

“Any retail shop next to a place could combine forces.  Wildflowers is flanked by a jewelry shop and a downtown pub.  They only get a certain amount of sidewalk for their pub; they get two (tables) outside.  We’re a retail space.  We don’t need seats outside.  Why don’t we put 10 seats outside our place and triple the size of their outdoor seating.  Pretty simple.”

Music in these reimagined spaces might also help what he calls a possible new normal.

“Allow some musicians to set up and have some very safe pocket spaces along the way, so the musician can perform on the corners.  I believe in the next stages (of reopening) being a little more street performing, a little more collaboration.”

Credit Michael John Heagerty Facebook
Creative thinking, such as this concept for Montgomery Street downtown, is what Heagerty wants to spur with his ideas.

Heagerty says it’s all about creating experiences, which is a lot of why people go out to eat and shop.  And creatively finding opportunities will help businesses come back sooner and stronger, given the restrictions the COVID 19 pandemic has imposed on them, such as 25% capacity in restaurants or limiting merchandise and customers in stores. 

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.