At the March 28 Arvada City Council Meeting, Arvada Director of Community and Economic Development Ryan Stachelski gave an update on the Olde Town street closures, stating that the next phase of the semi-permanent plan will include more community outreach and studies on infrastructure, traffic, public safety and other factors.
Stachelski recapped the closures that began on June 12, 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and have since been extended to a semi-permanent feature of the historic district. On March 8, 2021, council approved a five-year plan to keep the closures in place while the city team measures the efficacy and impact of the closures on local businesses.
At the March 28 meeting, Stachelski outlined he next steps for the project.
“We are really going to focus on additional community input, updated design and layout configuration, what types of significant infrastructure changes would we like to see in Olde Town, what’s appropriate to invest the money – we want to be sure we’re investing it for the long term,” Stachelski said.
Public safety for all of our different facets is important, and then creating that strategic vision for the next 20 years,” Stachelski continued.
Stachelski continued to say that making sure that Olde Town is ADA accessible is a priority for the city team. Parklets have been added to many businesses for use as outdoor dining areas, Stachelski said, which he posited was important for continuing to allow sidewalk access.
The Olde Town Business Improvement District Board has been weighing a parklet agreement with businesses that would potentially include a lease, as the parklets are uniform and provided by the city.
“By charging a lease to the parklet users, we’re able to then reinvest that money and support all the businesses in Olde Town,” Stachelski said.
Stachelski added that in April, his team would have a quarterly display featured on arvada.org that would be a digital format measuring different facets of Olde Town; utilization of parking in the transit hub, utilization of parking in Olde town, pedestrian traffic, bike traffic, car traffic and scooter traffic.
Council was generally supportive of the direction Stachelski laid out for Olde Town, though Mayor Marc Williams emphasized the need to resolve some public safety issues in the area.
“Until we fully recognize and address the issues that Scott Spears brought before us, we could build a wonderful, permanent, open, pedestrian-friendly space, and if people are not going to come because they don’t feel safe, it’s a total waste. Let’s not lose sight that we have to address the public safety issues as we go forward with this,” Williams said.
At a previous city council meeting, Spears — the owner of Olde Town establishments such as Schoolhouse and Scrumptious — raised concerns about mounting public safety issues in the district, which he said had been endangering his employees.
“In the past three months alone, we’ve had the managers of Schoolhouse and So Radish threatened when asking people to remove themselves from our properties. We’ve had our bar staff cursed at, spit at when they refused to allow people to sit at our tables inside and eat food and drinks, they brought in themselves,” Spears said.
The police were called for every incident, and although their response was great, my staff hasn’t seen any changes, and calling the police has become a daily, sometimes hourly burden on them. My employees don’t feel safe, and they’re looking for jobs elsewhere,” Spears continued. “Not only is employee safety and stolen property a major issue, but safety and enjoyment of our guests is also a major concern.”
Without our patrons, our businesses will not survive,” Spears continued.