The closing Monday of the Lift Bridge by the state Department of Transportation for several months of repair work might appear to hurt downtown businesses trying to attract fall tourists to the riverfront.
But other businesses view the bridge closing as a chance to reconnect with St. Croix Valley residents who normally stay away from the downtown area because of traffic.
That desire by downtown businesses to attract local residents led to creation of “Townie Tuesdays,” a promotion that starts Tuesday and runs through December. Participating downtown merchants will stay open until 8 p.m. Tuesdays and offer specials to persons living in the 55082, 55003 and 55042 zip codes.
“Townie Tuesdays is essentially a 3-month invitation for Stillwater-area workers and residents to come downtown and enjoy shopping and dining amid the quiet streets and relaxed atmosphere created by the bridge closure,” said Cory Buettner, co-organizer of Townie Tuesday and owner of Leo’s Grill & Malt Shop.
The Lift Bridge closing is expected to reduce downtown traffic congestion by commuters crossing the span daily, with an estimated 18,000 vehicles per day affected by the closure.
“This opportunity with the bridge closing came up and we should see what we can do to get the locals down here,” Buettner said.
“This is a way to get downtown excited,” added Todd Streeter, executive director of the Greater Stillwater Chamber of Commerce. “We’re going to push the trigger on this with the downtown businesses. This is kind of a no-brainer for participation.”
Downtown merchants taking part will display Townie Tuesday posters promoting activities and events occurring from now until December. The city will offer free parking at downtown lots and the city ramp Tuesday to help kick off the promotion.
Streeter said Townie Tuesday will show residents what downtown could be like when the new St. Croix Crossing bridge opens in four years.
“This is the perfect opportunity for downtown businesses and area consumers to see how pleasant downtown will be once the new bridge is open and the Lift Bridge is converted into a pedestrian and bike path in 2017,” he said.
“It’s pleasant when the (Lift) bridge is close,” Buettner added. “It’s a tremendous opportunity for us to get reacquainted with downtown.”
Streeter believes that when residents visit downtown on Tuesdays and see what the area is like without traffic, they will get excited about the area’s future.
“When combined with the Browns Creek Trail and new Lowell Park improvements, I firmly believe downtown Stillwater will experience a renaissance unmatched any time in its history,” he said,
Streeter added that Townie Tuesday begins several weeks before a new chamber-sponsored community symposium downtown revitalization panel begins working later this month.
Upcoming downtown events
Sept. 13 Ladies Night Out
Sept. 15 Art on Main
Sept. 23-25, “Take Me to the River” St. Croix River Festival
Oct. 6-7, Fall Colors Fine Art & Jazz Festival
Oct. 13-14, Harvest Fest