Development projects are happening around town, people are moving in and there is no sign that traffic will improve (especial until PennDOT makes DeKalb a two-way). To take advantage of this, Norristown can develop a district that gives you an escape and give you the feeling of living in a small village. That means designating a car-free district.
A car-free district is exactly as the name says, a district without cars. Typically, these are very narrow streets in a central location with shops and attractions. Vienna, Italy has a larger open space surrounded by historical buildings. These are also major tourist destinations that help support the local economy. In Pennsylvania, there are ZERO car-free districts. The closest one to us is in Cape May, NJ(pictured above).
In Norristown, there are a few places where car-free districts can work. The first place I can think of is East Penn Street, off Dekalb where Theatre Horizon is. Currently, law offices occupy the other side of Penn Street, whether they’re willing to relocate is highly unlikely. But for the sake of an argument, let’s say these spaces are open. Where the law offices are is an ideal location for a small specialty shop, a restaurant and/or a bike shop. The rest of Penn Street and Strawberry Alley are used for county parking and Theatre Horizon has parking available as well. In the county’s plan to update the complex layout in this area, Strawberry Alley could be widened to allow for two way traffic so these parking lots are still accessible. A streetscape project for that section can also change the appeal for the area. East Penn Street can also become the new home of Fourth Fridays in the Summer. Imagine the entire street filled with vendors, music and live shows on the Arts Hill.
The first thing that comes to mind when people say “car-free” is that there is no parking. True, but not exactly the car for us. Penn Street is blocks away from 3 parking structures, a parking lot, and a bike trail. Let’s also recognize that there is under 20 spaces on that portion of Penn that will not be available if it becomes a car-free zone. However, most districts allow delivery trucks in the early morning or late night to allow businesses to restock for their guests.
So there’s a quick thought of another idea of a way to increase tourism. Where would you like to see a car-free district in Norristown?