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State Street Green fades to black as intersection reopens


Ellie Van Houtte/ Town Crier
Residents bid farewell to the State Street Green, which played host to events like Green Day on the Green, left, while serving as a social gathering spot for more than a month.

The street that had gone green is back to black.

The State Street Green has been rolled up – literally – and put away for the summer, giving way to the black asphalt underneath.

The downtown pop-up park, located between First and Second streets, was scheduled to be removed Tuesday after serving as a social gathering spot for downtown visitors for more than a month. The end of the temporary park coincides with the city’s plan to wrap up First Street streetscape construction and reopen the State and First streets intersection this week, according to Los Altos Economic Development Manager Kathy Kleinbaum.

The city, along with Passerelle Investment Co. and the H&H Co., collaborated on the park in July as a “turning lemons into lemonade” effort after closing the State and First intersection for the construction project.

Kleinbaum conceded that the city opted to close the park Tuesday despite a push by some to keep it in place through Labor Day. She noted that the park, as well as other factors, might have negatively impacted some businesses.

“We decided by a majority vote that if enough businesses are impacted, the city has a responsibility to mitigate those issues,” she said.

While the park may be gone from State Street, some are hoping to see it return to the downtown area in the future.

Passerelle Community Development Director Brooke Ray Smith said she’s in the process of tabulating results of a merchant and visitor survey recently conducted on the park. If the survey results indicate adequate support, Smith added, she would consider asking city officials to support resurrecting the park downtown for one month next summer.

“The idea of having a car-free space downtown is important – whether as a park or as a flex-use space,” said Smith, adding that merchant buy-in is “a huge part” of the support for another temporary downtown park.

“You can’t effectively build community without being a part of it – that’s what we’ve strived to do here,” she said.

Reactions

State Street merchants offered a range of opinions on the park’s impact – positive and negative.

BK Collections owner Belinda Chung said that while the park was a positive attraction for visitors, she saw an overall drop in business – citing specifically a lack of foot traffic and parking as factors.

“Parking is the biggest concern for me,” said Chung, a downtown merchant for more than 30 years. “We’ve had a lot of positive reaction to (the park) … but at the end of the day, it really doesn’t help business.”

Peet’s Coffee & Tea manager Saundra Nguyen, on the other hand, said the park’s presence changed the type of clients her business served over the summer.

While the stream of early-morning commuters stopping in for coffee dwindled because of parking concerns, the store gained new customers in parents and caretakers with young children who enjoyed the Green, she said. Nguyen added that her store experienced an initial drop in business before seeing an uptick in recent weeks.

“It took me about a week to see what an opportunity it was,” said Nguyen, who added that she drew customers into the store by handing out samples to potential customers on the Green. “For a company like us, it’s a good opportunity to meet new customers and expand our base. I do worry about those customers who can’t park, though.”

Skate Works owner Jason Strubing acknowledged neighboring merchants’ parking concerns but added that the problem can’t be blamed solely on the park. He noted other factors contributing to the parking crunch, pointing to First Street construction and the loss of nearly 100 temporary spaces at the First and Main streets lot, which is currently being developed.

“I think it obviously made the best of a bad situation. … If anything, it shows the need for green space downtown,” he said.

Kleinbaum said the city is “willing to consider” another downtown pop-up park in the future. She added that while the State Street Green “served its purpose very well,” approving a pop-up park next summer would ultimately depend on continued public/private funding and partnerships, as well as the support of the business community and the Los Altos City Council.

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