Petersburg plans to dismantle the outdoor dining hall and reopen the street

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There is no timeline for the removal of the outdoor dining area, City Manager Stuart Turille Jr. told City Council. Although their authorization was not required, the reactions of the advisers were mixed.

PETERSBURG – The city will reopen to traffic that part of North Sycamore Street which is now the pandemic-linked Old Towne Square outdoor dining area, but general manager Stuart Turille Jr. will consider options for a possible new location for the venue outside. a public right of way.

No timetable has been given for the removal from Old Towne Square. Turille told city council on Tuesday afternoon that he would inform them in a letter of the reopening of the street.

The square was cleared in May 2020 by then-manager Aretha Ferrell-Benavides as a way to help restaurants recover customers lost due to restrictions in the COVID-19 pandemic. The initial understanding was that once the emergency of the pandemic was lifted, the streets would reopen.

Supporters of the alfresco dining room were pushing for a permanent placement on Sycamore between Bank and Bollingbrook streets, saying it generated pedestrian traffic in the city center. Opponents, however, were pushing for a different kind of traffic – the type of vehicle that before May last used North Sycamore Street as direct access to the northern end of the Old Towne neighborhood.

While under Turille’s authority to remove the square without council permission, he chose to present several options to seek consensus among councilors. He eventually got it, but not without a sharp contribution from some of the local lawmakers.

Turille presented three options to the board: keep Old Towne Square as it is, delete it and reopen the road, or reopen the road and consider moving the square to vacant land at the corner of Sycamore and Bollingbrook streets. He gave advantages to each of the options, but ultimately recommended the third option. However, some action would be required to determine if the lot could be approved for alcohol consumption.

Turille suggested that the city possibly work with the Chamber of Commerce to designate a monthly event in the Old City that could use the land and qualify for special approval from the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.

Turille also recommended that the city consider a “comprehensive master plan for the city center” where all those involved could give their opinion on “a real downtown square”. Petersburg’s Main Street program is working to secure a state grant to help fund this comprehensive plan, and Turille recommended that the city support Main Street’s work.

There seemed to be a consensus in council on reopening the street, but there was a difference of opinion on which option to pursue.

Ward 4 Councilor Charles Cuthbert, who represents Old Towne on council, said he preferred the second option of removing the square and not pursuing any alternatives at this time.

“I think it’s a waste of taxpayer money” to continue relocating instead, Cuthbert told his colleagues.

“Three of the four main beneficiaries already have their own outdoor dining areas, and I would not continue to rent this corner,” he added. “I don’t think we’re getting our money’s worth.”

Ward 1 Councilor Treska Wilson-Smith and Deputy Mayor Annette Smith-Lee both chose the third option, praising Turille for all the research he did and “the professionalism with which he presented,” said Smith-Lee. While she preferred to keep the square, Wilson-Smith said Turille “has given the process a lot of thought.”

Ward 5 Councilor Howard Myers did not want council to get involved in the removal of the square since he was not involved in its creation and development. Mayor Samuel Parham, another supporter of the square, said he was “ready to do whatever is beneficial to Ward 4”.

Any lease of the corner lot would require council approval, so Turille said he would come back to council with more information on the lease terms.

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Stay or go: Petersburg has built a place for meals in the event of a pandemic. Will he still be here in a post-COVID world?

In the moment: Old Towne Square, adapted for Phase 1, receives rave reviews

Veteran reporter Bill Atkinson (he / him / her) is the Regional Daily News Coach for the United Central Southeastern Region Group of the USA TODAY Network, which includes Virginia, West Virginia and parts of Carolina North. He is based at the Progress-Index in Petersburg, Virginia. Contact Bill at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @BAtkinson_PI.


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