OpenStreetsPGH draws crowd despite cool, wet weather
June 29, 2015 12:00 AM
Ashley Smith and Sophia Swinderski roller skating down Butler Street in Lawrenceville on Sunday during OpenStreetsPGH, a free public event that make streets pedestrian-only.
By Lexi Belculfine / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A Lawrenceville tea shop added cookies to its menu for children, a bazaar brought bicyclists into Altar Bar and $1 slices of watermelon welcomed walkers at Wholey’s.
These were just some of the ways Pittsburgh vendors adapted Sunday to OpenStreetsPGH, which closed a 3.5-mile stretch of Butler Street and Penn Avenue and more than 25 city intersections to cars from 8 a.m. to noon. It was the second of three such closings of this thoroughfare for this year.
“There are businesses who are excited to reach out to and market to the people there for OpenStreets — and there are others who want to take their ball and go home,” said Scott Bricker, executive director of Bike Pittsburgh, which organizes OpenStreets.
A gray morning kept some away, though thousands still took to the open streets for yoga and dance classes, running and bike riding, and shopping and eating.
Diana Stoughton, co-owner of Gryphon’s Tea, set up a tent over sidewalk tables so patrons could enjoy hot or cold tea out of the rain and added cookies to the menu in anticipation of OpenStreets bringing more children to Lawrenceville.
Opening the Butler Street tea room three hours early brought in as many as 30 more customers, she said.
On the steps of Altar Bar, James Wilson, 20, yelled, “Come stop at the bazaar. We’ve got bike parking out front.”
Inside, stands selling art and food filled the Strip District concert venue, while bartenders poured Bloody Marys and mimosas.
Across Penn Avenue, Wholey’s retail manager Scott Thomas used a megaphone to promote lobster rolls and free samples of mussels being dished out from under a tent in front of the fish market.
“It really kills our business in the morning, but it’s a fun thing in the community,” he said.
He hopes that OpenStreets attendees, who might not otherwise have visited the Strip District, come back again.
“The return on that down the road is what is the payoff to me,” Mr. Thomas said.
A survey showed 88 percent of more than 15,000 attendees spent money during OpenStreets on May 31, Mr. Bricker said.
Caroline West, her arms filled with two potted plants and a Pennsylvania Macaroni Company bag, walked along Penn Avenue with her family mid-morning Sunday.
Ms. West, 26, of North Oakland said she knew there was some kickback from small businesses, but thought it was easier to shop at her favorite stores during OpenStreetsPGH.
“We always hoped they would close this street,” she said.
Ms. West will get her wish again Sunday, July 26, when Butler and Penn will close for this year’s final OpenStreetsPGH.
Lexi Belculfine: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1878. Twitter: @LexiBelc.
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