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Friday, April 5, 2013

Hales Gives Old Town District the Go, for Now

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Fri, Apr 5, 2013 at 1:39 PM

Old_Town.jpg

The weekly street closures that have drawn compliments and worry in Old Town's new "entertainment district" will continue on, despite the formal ending of the pilot project last weekend, the Mercury has learned.

Mayor Charlie Hales—who on Saturday spent several hours surveying the weekend cacophony that clusters around Old Town's bars and nightclubs—has instructed police and transportation officials to continue the project for up to 60 days.

"What he saw when he was walking downtown was that it seems to be working," said Spokesman Dana Haynes.

That's not unqualified approval, though. Whether or not the project becomes permanent, and who will pay for it if it does, remains to be seen. Hales plans to speak with police, business owners and others before making a final decision.

As we reported this week, the weekly street closures— which seal off NW 3rd Avenue between Everett and Burnside, along with adjacent streets—have the support of cops, who say crime is down in the district. But the initiative has proven expensive, running almost $30,000 over three months, and bar owners fear the closures have made the area seem unwelcoming. Over the three-month pilot, 315 vehicles were towed from the zone.

"Yes there's a cost," said Haynes. "Should that be something that the city bears, or should it be something that the tavern and bar owners bear? That's something we have to discuss."

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