Downtown Bend can sizzle with energy, especially in the summer — festival after festival, people flooding the streets. It can be great fun.
That’s except if you are a downtown business owner or shopper. The string of festivals can disrupt shopping, parking and getting around. Many downtowns across the country would be happy to have such a problem as throngs of people, tents, stages and food carts. But might there be a better way to do it in Bend?
The Bend City Council has asked staff to bring community groups together to talk about downtown festivals. It’s a smart move.
Closing streets makes it harder for shoppers to get where they want to go. Festivals can scare some shoppers from going downtown. And of course, restaurants are usually not overjoyed when a food cart plops down right in front of their business.
Councilor Bill Moseley brought up the idea for the discussion at Wednesday’s council meeting. He doesn’t have a particular solution in mind, but one thing he mentioned is the possibility of switching the location of such events to Troy Field. The parking lot between City Hall and the Bend-La Pine school district’s administration building was also brought up. At those locations, a festival would essentially still be downtown and still bring crowds and traffic, but they might be less disruptive to businesses in the heart of downtown.
The city is going to engage the Downtown Bend Business Association, event promoters and more. The school district likely will need to be involved as well, because it owns Troy Field.
City Manager Eric King suggested the city facilitate or promote a discussion between the various groups, rather than have councilors set the direction from the beginning. Councilors have plenty on their plate and it’s possible the various groups can work something out on their own.
Nobody wants to see downtown Bend lose vibrancy, but if there is a better way to accommodate festivals, businesses and shoppers, it’s worth looking into.