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Grand Haven closing downtown block to open social district

Posted at 6:49 PM, Feb 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-28 18:49:51-05

GRAND HAVEN, Mich. — A block party is set to start in downtown Grand Haven this summer. Starting May 1st, people will be able to stand in the street and gather in an expanded social zone that shuts down the first block of Washington Ave.

The social zone is set to close on September 30.

“We’re going to try something new this year, and hopefully it will be taken well,” executive director for Grand Haven Main Street Jeremy Swiftney said.

It's good news for the restaurants at that end of town. The two retail businesses, however, have their concerns. Mostly that their businesses will be lost in the mix.

“It’s a bold step to close the whole block off, and it’s a trial basis. So why not try it and if it brings people into town and keeps them in town, we’re all for it,” co-owner of the Surf Shop, Chris Girard said.

The owner of Calico Cat in downtown GH didn't want to go on camera but says they're not keen on the idea either. Especially since they say they didn't get to provide their input and felt like the decision could have come with more of a warning. Still, Girard is hopeful for the best.

"I think a lot of times, the retailer's voices don’t get heard on the first block,” Girard said.

Retail makes up much of the second block of Washington, which will be open for traffic.

The city says they're hoping by closing down the street—and creating more openings in front of barriers that otherwise blocked the retail businesses—should help.

If the closure doesn't work, for whatever reason, the city is down to change plans or reconsider them for next year, Swiftney says.

For those concerned about parking: the lot by Oddsides will remain open, with potentially limited access off of Washington.

The closure of the spots directly on Washington will remove less than 2% of the total available parking in downtown Grand Haven.