The city’s plan to reconfigure a busy stretch of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street – aka 9th Street – initially drew skepticism and ire from business owners along the retail corridor.
The Mayor Rick Kriseman-endorsed “Complete Streets” initiative will reduce sections of the road – between 4th and 30th Avenues N – from four traffic lanes to three, adding two wide bike lanes, with traffic buffers, and a landscaped center strip. The roadway is being re-measured, reconfigured and resurfaced. It will not, at any point, become a fully one-way thoroughfare.
Construction began in late August.
According to a recent traffic study, approximately 18,000 cars per day travel on King Street. Kriseman has called the Complete Streets initiative “a new approach to build, maintain, and operate streets that are safe for people of all ages and abilities, while balancing the needs of multiple travel modes like using a wheelchair, biking, or accessing transit.”
“The Chamber and many businesses along the MLK Street corridor opposed the elimination of a traffic lane and are concerned about plans to implement similar treatments to other streets in our city,” Chamber of Commerce Chair Ann Drake McMullen wrote in an email this week to all Chamber members.
“While we as a Chamber disagree with the decision on MLK, we thank the Mayor and his staff for their time and their willingness to hear our position and incorporate a few modifications based on your input. Sometimes the city will make decisions counter to our position but this one disagreement has not and will not disrupt the great partnership the Chamber and City have enjoyed.”
Gordon Stevenson, the owner of Trip’s Diner at 2339 King, says he “doesn’t have a problem” with the planned reconfiguration. He’s heard the complaints from other business owners in the neighborhood that the inevitable traffic reduction will affect their businesses.
“I don’t know that for a fact,” he said. “It’s a bit of a wait-and-see. I see both sides of the issue, but in general I don’t think it’s a terrible idea.”
Many of Trip’s customers, Stevenson added, are “members of the biking community. And they have made it very clear that they expect my support.”
Customers were taken aback last month when a flyer appeared in the diner’s window: “The City,” it read, “is doing its best to hide what will happen. Make no mistake … your favorite business may be forced to CLOSE!”
The paper, Stevenson stressed, did not originate with him or his employees. “We did have some flyers in the restaurant that were very negative towards the project,” he said. “They were dropped off by a local person, without our permission. They literally just walked in the restaurant, dropped them on the counter and left.”
Stevenson, who owns two other Trip’s locations, is not at the King Street restaurant all the time. “I didn’t even know about it for two days,” he said. “And then we removed them.”