A pedestrian mall near the Bandstand may happen at some point in Rehoboth’s future, but it doesn’t appear it’s going to be anytime soon.
During a commissioner workshop May 6, Rehoboth commissioners discussed closing off the east end of Rehoboth Avenue to vehicular traffic. Not one of the seven spoke in favor of the idea.
In April, because the DART bus stop is no longer near the Boardwalk, but is instead next to the restrooms, Commissioner Pat Coluzzi broached the idea of turning Rehoboth Avenue around the Bandstand into a pedestrian walkway.
“I’m going to go out there on the ledge and say, wouldn’t it be great to close that off, and then make it a pedestrian area completely down there,” said Coluzzi.
Prior to the commissioner workshop, during a streets and transporation committee meeting May 3, Kathy Osterholm, committee chair, said she attended a meeting called by the Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce of business owners from around the Bandstand. She said the idea of a pedestrian mall in the area surrounding the Bandstand was strongly turned down.
Osterholm said business owners were concerned the east end of Rehoboth Avenue has little residential space, which is needed for a pedestrian mall to work. In areas where pedestrian malls have been successful, she said, there are residents who live within a very short distance.
“Rehoboth’s population does not live in the downtown area,” said Osterholm, adding that people like to drive into Rehohoth, coming down the Avenue, see the beach and then go where they’re going.
Rehoboth Mayor Paul Kuhns said he attended the chamber meeting. The biggest takeaway, he said, was that businesses want more communication from the city on when the area around the Bandstand is going to be closed for a special event. It affects how many customers they see, he said.
Attorney Steve Spence was in attendance representing a business owner against the proposal of the pedestrian mall. He said right off the bat, the city would lose 35 parking spaces and two handicap spaces, two loading spots and other conveniences.
During the May 3 meeting, and after also attending the chamber meeting, Coluzzi’s mind was changed.
“Logistically, it just doesn’t seem to work at this time. Maybe 10 years from now. I don’t know,” she said.
The Rehoboth Avenue pedestrian mall was the second mall discussed by the city this year. During a meeting in February, in the name of bicycle and pedestrian safety, the committee discussed closing off First Street to all vehicles, from Baltimore to Wilmington avenues.
During the recent workshop, Commissioner Stan Mills said this issue wasn’t discussed at the chamber meeting, but he said it would probably be met with the same level of enthusiasm as was the idea of closing off around the Bandstand.