In 2020 good news has been a rare commodity.

But Downtown Greensboro Inc. (DGI) President Zack Matheny provided the City Council with good news about a project that is working much better than anticipated at the City Council work session last week.

The project is “Open Streets” in downtown Greensboro, with the tagline, “We’re Closing It Down To Open It Up.” Open Streets closes down South Elm Street from Market Street to Lewis Street to vehicular traffic from 5 to 11 p.m. When Open Streets was launched in August, it was held on Friday and Saturday nights. It has evolved into a Saturday only event.

With the street closed to vehicular traffic, the restaurants and retailers have been able to expand onto the sidewalks and streets to provide more space for social distancing. Pedestrians still have plenty of room to walk while once again maintaining social distance.

Open Streets started in August, was extended through September, extended again through October and now has been extended through the end of the year.

Matheny said that because of Open Streets, some restaurants are “doing pre-COVID weekend numbers” and that one retailer did better in September 2020 than in September 2019.

Matheny said that DGI was working with the city to replace some of the Jersey walls with something “more esthetically pleasing” and that some restaurants had already invested in outdoor heaters.

Councilmember Justin Outling said, “Open Streets has been pretty remarkable. I’m hoping we could extend that into perpetuity.”

Matheny agreed that extending Open Streets would be beneficial because “these businesses still have to make up a tremendous amount of lost revenue.”

City Manager David Parrish admitted that there was some apprehension on the part of the city staff when the idea was introduced, but agreed that it had really worked out well.

City Councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter said, “I’ve been down for Open Streets. I’m hoping that this is one thing we can continue.”

She noted that people really wanted to be able to get out more but still be able to social distance and Open Streets provided that opportunity.