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Cars on Main are Driving Development

Decades ago there was a vision for downtown that included a bustling multimodal transit system. While the NFTA’s Metro Rail System remains one of the country’s most heavily used per-mile light rail systems, there were unforeseen consequences. Many blame Main Street’s decline on the lack of vehicular access and believe economic development in the city’s core has been stifled since cars were removed in 1982.

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Fast forward 20 years and that thinking has shifted. In 2010, the Cars Sharing Main St. project team was assembled and a new directive was issued:  allow cars to share the track bed with the light rail cars and bring people back to Main St.  Construction is advancing with the 700 block was completed in 2012, the 600 block is near completion, and the 500 block is in the midst of reconfiguration.

The $30,000,000+ million project is intended to be a catalyst for change on a once bustling stretch of commercial activity that has lagged behind the momentum of downtown development.  Even before the project is complete, developers are seeing its potential. Mixed-use development projects are popping up among adaptive reuse projects, bringing high-end offices to once darkened storefronts. Groups like Carmina Woods Morris and Ricotta & Visco led the charge as more continue to secure space, capitalizing on increased access. Huge projects like the $42,000,000 Tishman Building transformation to a Hilton Garden Inn and office space is nearing completion and IBM’s recent announcement to bring 500 people to the south Key Tower will boost Main St.’s profile even further.   New restaurants and cafes are meeting the increased demand resulting from the development happening along downtown’s once-primary thoroughfare and the surrounding Central Business District.

Expectations are high for the reconfiguration and with the projects already underway it is clear that once completed, cars sharing Main St. may be one of the most significant downtown development projects in decades.

By Chris Finn, BNE Research Manager