Four streeteries in Montgomery County, Maryland, originally created as temporary solutions for gathering restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, are now being reevaluated for continued use into the fall.
Public streets closed to vehicles and available for activities such as biking, walking and outdoor dining, known as streeteries, were established on four streets in Silver Spring, Wheaton and Bethesda in 2020, and were previously extended to continue at least through Labor Day.
“The Streeteries have provided a practical solution to a pandemic-related problem,” said County Executive Marc Elrich in a news release Monday. “They served as much-needed gathering spaces during the pandemic and provided a creative solution. Now as the situation has changed, we worked with the community in each area to decide how these spaces will continue to operate.”
Streeteries generally have had hospitality businesses involved and allowed for alcohol consumption in public areas that were previously off limits. The county is now working with each of the streetery locations to use community feedback to develop long-term plans, some of which will diverge from current concepts, according to the news release.
Newell Street in Silver Spring will reopen to vehicles after Labor Day but will remain an event-related operation, closing to cars for public events throughout the year.
Price Avenue in Wheaton will remain in operation as a streetery for the foreseeable future. A community meeting is planned for late September or early October to discuss ways to expand the streetery while accommodating pedestrian traffic and bicyclists more effectively. The Price Avenue streetery may temporarily close for a few days for facility repairs beneath the road.
In Bethesda, Norfolk Avenue is expected to remain closed to vehicles and open as a streetery. Woodmont Avenue will be temporarily suspended and partially reopened to traffic after Labor Day during construction of the Woodmont Avenue Cycle Track.
The streeteries were part of the Montgomery County Department of Transportation’s Shared Streets program, which designated recreation areas during the pandemic and allowed businesses to make use of streetside parking spaces and sidewalks.
Mitra Pedoeem of MC Permitting Services said that restrictions on using tents and cafe spaces on sidewalks were relaxed during the pandemic to help businesses. But now, those businesses need to get the proper permits.
“Although we will work with businesses after Labor Day, they will need to reach out to the Permitting Services Office if they have not yet secured tent and outdoor cafe permits to ensure they comply with accessibility requirements,” Pedoeem said.
Streeteries, on the other hand, have accessibility requirements built into their designs and will not need county permits to ensure they are met.
“Streeteries have undeniably changed how we look at the public right of way,” said MCDOT Director Chris Conklin. “We are optimistic that these streets will continue to serve the public well.”
(Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct Mitra Pedoeem’s title.)