Mill Street closure extended to April: Closure from Neal to Main streets could become permanent |

Mill Street closure extended to April: Closure from Neal to Main streets could become permanent

The sun sets along Mill Street in downtown Grass Valley Wednesday while people enjoy a sip of wine under the awning in front of Lucchesi Vineyards and Winery Tasting Room. The city of Grass Valley decided to extend the street closure of Mill Street for a few more months.
Elias Funez

Grass Valley has extended the closure of Mill Street through April, and is now taking the first steps toward potentially making the move permanent.

The City Council unanimously approved the extension Tuesday, which came the same day the state lifted the Greater Sacramento region stay-at-home order, allowing outdoor dining.

According to City Manager Tim Kiser, who met with some downtown businesses this month, most business owners and residents are in favor of keeping the closure, which was enacted in response to the pandemic-related restrictions last summer.

“We’re creating a unique space in an area of our community and our city that hasn’t existed before,” Mayor Ben Aguilar said at the meeting.

Aguilar noted that in an age when much of retail is shifting online, particularly during the pandemic, the downtown street closure gives the public an experience that encourages shopping local and in-person.

Other council members highlighted the social and civic benefits of a robust public space.

Downtown Grass Valley shop owner Rosie Doolittle, who owns and operates Swenson’s Outdoors, has stayed relatively quiet about much of the downtown Mill Street closure, but says she will make her voice heard if the city of Grass Valley considers a permanent street closure.
Elias Funez

At the meeting the council approved solicitation of professional services to come up with options for what Mill Street, if permanently closed to traffic, could look like, and what other changes would be required to accommodate it.

“This is just starting the conversation,” Aguilar said. “There’s a much longer road ahead if this should come to fruition, but it’s something we do need to discuss. We need to involve business owners, property owners, and do what is prudent to have a permanent closure.”

The council also approved investing $20,000 into the space, half for landscaping and decor and the other for marketing.

Kiser said the initial marketing would focus on COVID-19 complaint businesses, but in the future could expand to events and sidewalk sales.

In December the city created a program allowing businesses to certify their COVID-19 compliance. It lists them on its website.

Some public commenters opposed to the extension said the closure is hurting business, with less people able to park nearby.

The council noted many parking spaces are taken by business owners and their employees, and lowered the parking permit fee from $45 to $20 through March to encourage parking in permit lots.

Kiser said enforcement would also be increasing.

To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email or call 530-477-4229.

The city of Grass Valley has spent a considerable amount of money helping to decorate the closed section of Mill Street for different seasons, including Halloween and Christmas.
Elias Funez

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