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Business owners call for 2-way streets

Gay Reading, an owner of Greentree Antiques and Tea Room, said converting Short Street and Second Street from one-way to two-way would be a "huge boost" for his shop and nearby businesses.

"We are very anxious to have two-way streets restored to downtown," Reading said. He described one-way streets as "a nightmare," especially when trying to give people directions on the telephone. Reading said he was authorized to speak on behalf of L.V. Harkness, Belle Maison and Trillium, whose owners also want two-way traffic.

Businesspeople and business property owners attended a meeting Tuesday to voice their views on a plan to make Short and Second two-way streets.

City planning director Chris King said communities across the country are converting one-way streets to two-way. Two-way streets were made one-way during the 1960s and 1970s "when so much emphasis was placed on automobiles," he said.

Studies have shown that two-way streets help businesses, make it easier to drive around downtown and create a more positive environment for pedestrians.

The city's Downtown Streetscape Master Plan recommends taking four pairs of downtown streets back to two-way traffic: Short and Second; Upper and Mill; Maxwell and High; and Vine and Main.

Tuesday's community meeting was the second of four to gauge support and "see if there are questions we have not thought to ask," King said. Comments from the meetings will be forwarded to Urban County Council members and Mayor Jim Newberry.

King said there is no money in the city budget at this time for converting the streets. The estimated cost is $300,000.

Close to 600 letters were hand delivered, and 85 certified letters were mailed to residents, property owners and business owners who would be affected.

Chris Heflin and Robert Garrison, owners of Chase Tap Room, Hef's Sports Lounge and The Loft, all located in Victorian Square, were in total agreement with the two-way plan. "It's got to happen," Heflin said. "We think traffic flow will be a lot better with two-way streets."

Van Kirk, owner of Collision Reconstruction Associates and Sayre & Associates Forensic Engineering on East Second Street, said, "We have been for this, vociferously, for a long time." Kirk said he watches "suicidal people" going the wrong way down his block on a daily basis.

Less enthusiastic was interior designer Richard Kimbrel, who has a retail home accessory shop at 361 West Short Street. "I am totally amenable to two-way streets, but I can't afford to lose parking and the loading zone in front of my shop," he said.

Parking meters and loading zones are generally proposed for the south side of Short Street. Kimbrel's store is on the other side.