Bringing Center Street back to life

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Elliott Miller
Participants of the Electro Dash 5K start running near Guru’s on Center Street, Provo.

Center Street in downtown Provo was rebuilt in the early 1970s and has since been working to revitalize downtown with events and new buildings.

As part of the effort to reinvent downtown, Utah Valley University’s office of New Urban Mechanics and Provo Inc. hosted the second annual PlayStreet Provo event to bring people in the community downtown.

On June 20 Center Street was closed from 300 West to 500 West from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. to house the event. It showcased a bouncy house, breakfast, games and snacks. The event was intended to create an environment for people to experience the fun that downtown has to offer. It was targeted to community members and was free.

Taylor Williams, a student volunteer with UVU’s office of New Urban Mechanics, helped with the PlayStreet Provo event. He said the purpose of PlayStreet Provo is to cause individuals and families to choose downtown as a place to spend time. The event was designed to reinvent downtown as a hub for the community and show that downtown is an enjoyable part of the city.

“People miss the old school feeling on Main Street,” Williams said, “the feeling of hanging out in Main Street has left, and we wanted to bring that feeling back.”

PlayStreet Provo is not the first event attempting to bring life back into Center Street. Other activities and cities have worked to revitalize the downtown area of cities.

On a national level, New Urban Mechanics and other organizations have made efforts to return communities downtown.

The UVU New Urban Mechanics office is modeled after New Urban Mechanics offices in Boston and Philadelphia. According to the New Urban Mechanics website, the organization works to “explore how new technology, designs and policies can strengthen the partnership between residents and government and significantly improve opportunity and experiences for all.”

Building relationships and involvement is a goal that other organizations nationally are working towards. Specifically, the Open Streets Project is a collaboration of two organizations — the Alliance for Biking and Walking and the Street Plans Collaborative— that hosts events to involve groups of people.

“Open streets or Ciclovias are initiatives that temporarily close streets to automotive traffic, so that people may use them for walking, bicycling, dancing, playing and socializing,” said Naomi Doerner, advocacy and membership manager for the Alliance for Biking and Walking.

Events put on by the Open Streets Project are becoming more prevalent as they are a trending way of bringing communities together.

“Currently there are well over 100 initiatives, nationally, with more starting up and many becoming institutionalized as regularly occurring,” Doerner said.

The PlayStreet Provo event was inspired by events put on by Open Streets Project as a way to bring people downtown.

Josh Wost is a planner in the community development department for Provo Inc. and has been working on projects to reinvent downtown Provo for the last three years. Provo has a lot of potential to become a hub for the community due to its historical character and size of the downtown area.

Events taking place in downtown are helping achieve the goal that Wost and his department have.

“An overarching goal of downtown is for it to be a place of housing, working and activities,” Wost said, “for it to be active and vibrant 24 hours a day.”

PlayStreet Provo was an event to bring people downtown. Other activities bringing people downtown include the Rooftop Concert Series, the Freedom Festival and various races ending downtown.

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