Nashua could allow Main Street restaurants to use some downtown parking space and one lane on each side of the roadway to expand outdoor dining areas, under a preliminary plan.
Although a formal proposal has not been submitted to aldermen, using the streetscape for outside tables is one of the options being discussed by city leaders and restaurant owners.
On Tuesday, Mayor Jim Donchess said Main Street’s four lanes — two in each direction — could possibly be reduced to two, allowing the lanes closest to the sidewalk to be reserved for dining or expanded retail space. That plan would include other parking options, Donchess said.
“Our overall goal here is to help build a stronger business climate, a stronger economy downtown as we emerge from the coronavirus epidemic and as restaurants can begin to serve people, at least outdoors,” Donchess told the Board of Aldermen.
City officials are studying the feasibility of giving the community development director the ability to alter site plans for downtown restaurants to help them expand their outdoor space, he said.
Plans likely will be brought to aldermen after being reviewed with downtown businesses, the mayor said.
“We are really looking at the restaurant owners for input,” said Mary Lou Blaisdell of the downtown improvement committee. “I think in general, the majority of people, again preliminary, are very supportive to do whatever we can to make this work for the restaurants.”
“Each restaurant has a different mode of operation, but they are all inclusive of one another and their thoughts,” Blaisdell said.
“I don’t want to see our downtown go dark,” said Alderwoman Shoshanna Kelly.
At the same time, Kelly said that while the city’s slow reopening has prompted some optimism, she cautioned people to be vigilant to avoid a rebound in COVID-19 cases. She commended the groups that are working together to alter outdoor seating and assisting in other initiatives to help downtown businesses.
Although it could take awhile to return to something resembling normal, Alderman Michael O’Brien said the downtown can be reopened if done slowly and correctly.
Said Donchess, “We need to open when it is safe to open — the safety should be No. 1.”