Post-COVID: Alpharetta rethinks parking, permits and pedestrians

Restaurant and retail customers in Alpharetta might enjoy more of the outdoors under new measures the city is enacting to ease the city’s return to business.

The city on Monday approved projects to allow businesses to operate outside their buildings, to help businesses and residents getting out and about.

Restaurant and shop owners will be able to extend their establishments’ dining and shopping activities to sidewalks through a “temporary outdoor operations” permit, valid until July 31. The additional outdoor space lets businesses provide more room for social distancing between customers. It also allows for business owners to set up tents and in some cases, use parking spaces to display merchandise or fill pickup orders for restaurants.

Separately, city officials are looking ahead to when street festivals and outdoor events return later in the year or 2021. The City Council approved an addition to the city code for temporary and permanent no-parking zones where vendors can operate during events. It gives police the authority to ticket or tow illegally parked vehicles during special events.

“I think this is going to help downtown because businesses downtown need all the help they can get right now,” said Mayor Jim Gilvin.

Alpharetta plans to reopen its government operations in stages following the statewide lifting of the shelter-in-place order on April 30. Safety measures required for employees and the public will be put into place, but the city gave no timeline for how it will phase in the reopening of departments.

Council members also approved a contract to Chattahoochee Group, Inc. for up to nearly $192,000 to build a midblock crossing for pedestrians with a partial median and traffic signal at the intersection of South Main and Marietta streets.

The project will not remove any turn lanes at the busy area near Publix Supermarket, Salt Factory restaurant and other businesses, but will slow traffic heading into the downtown, said Councilman Dan Merkel, who has described crossing the street there as dangerous.

“It’s a long way walking across the street right there,” he said. “This will make it much better. I’m very happy that this has been put together.”

The crosswalk construction will not get underway for several months, said Public Works Director Pete Sewczwicz, and will be completed around January 2021.

“This is just another step in making our downtown pedestrian friendly,” said Councilman Jason Binder. “It’s a good move for our city and our citizens.”