TOLAN SQUARE PROPOSED AS PERMANENT GATHERING PLACE
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Tags: Carrie Ritchie, Chief Gerard Scherlinck, Christmas Tree, Councilman Dominic Hamden, Downtown Development Authority, Mayor Michael Armitage, Milan Area Chamber, Milan Baptist Church, Milan City Council, Tolan Square, Tolan Street, West Main Street
By Milan Eagle Media
In June, the Milan City Council heard a presentation from Mayor Michael Armitage and City Administrator Jade Smith concerning a proposal to block off Tolan Street, creating a town square.
Successful cities have places for people to gather, for events and to socialize, they told the council. The events and celebrations that have taken place on Tolan Street point to the idea that it should be permanently blocked off for tables, umbrellas, and other outdoor furniture.
“It’s a mistake to view downtown as a place to get vehicles through,” said Armitage. “We need places where people can gather.”
According to the plan, nothing permanent will be done to block the street until the Tolan Square idea has had a chance for a try-out. Eventually permanent blockades could be brought in to keep traffic out.
The three parking spaces now located on Tolan Street can be moved to West Main Street, by introducing three diagonal parking spaces on either the north or south side of the street.
Chief Gerard Scherlinck indicated that with Tolan Square in place, there will be fewer traffic conflicts, so the area will be safer for pedestrians.
Fire Chief Bob Stevens told the council that he liked the idea of Tolan Square. “Keep up the good work,” he commented.
Carrie Ritchie, President of the Milan Area Chamber of Commerce, also gave her approval. “This is a great idea. They do it in Monroe,” she said. “It would be a great asset to bring in new business,” she added.
Pastor Doug Strader of Milan Baptist Church, president of the Downtown Development Authority, stood up to state his support for the idea. According to him, drivers will figure out alternate routes after Tolan Street is closed.
The initial cost is expected to be about $1,000 for barricades and planters to block off the street, then $3,000 for attractive picnic tables.
The city will seek grant money to pay for it.
Later in June, the council approved a traffic control order closing off the south end of Tolan Street, creating a public gathering place on Tolan between Main and the parking lot entrance.
Council members indicated that large flower planters or other barricades will be placed near Main Street to block off traffic, but if the idea doesn’t work out, it would be possible to remove the barricades.
Councilman Dominic Hamden remarked that he saw a good crowd on Tolan Street recently for the farmer’s market. “Everybody liked it,” he commented.
However, he predicted that cars will use the parking lot on the north side of Tolan Street as a cut-through.
Mayor Michael Armitage predicted the public square on Tolan Street could be used in the winter as well as the summer. For example, it could be the place for the Christmas Tree during the Christmas parade, or it could be the site of a community-wide New Year’s Eve party.
The traffic control order was passed by the council unanimously.