First Friday street fairs could resume in Old Town as early as March—with Elk Grove Blvd closed to vehicle traffic.
Old Town Elk Grove Foundation leaders are discussing the plan with city leaders and the Cosumnes Fire Department, who have been generally supportive, said foundation president Paula Maita.
The popular monthly festivals centered on art and shopping were , due to insurance costs generated by the crowds of people who swarm sidewalks during the event. Unlike at Old Town's annual and , cars were allowed to travel down the neighborhood's narrow main drag, passing inches from pedestrians.
Closing the street "solves a good portion of our insurance issues because we don't have to worry about a runaway car running into the people we've invited to our part of town," said Maita at the foundation's meeting Tuesday night.
Elk Grove Blvd would close down between 2nd Avenue and School Street from about 4:30 to about 9:00 p.m. once a month, Maita said.
City spokesperson Christine Brainerd said the city was "evaluating the option, but a decision has not yet been made."
The idea got an immediate, enthusiastic response from the 30 business owners and community members gathered at the Grange Hall.
"It's encouraging that First Friday is coming back," said Sharon Santucci, who owns . "It generates more business for us that evening."
At the potluck dinner, business owners also discussed forming a merchants' association that could more directly promote shopping in Old Town. As a non-profit, the foundation, which had about 50 members last year, can accept donations from the city and others. But it has struggled to balance its legal duties as a 501(c)3 organization with retailers' goals.
Board members said they had originally included a list of Old Town businesses on the foundation's website, but were told by the Internal Revenue Service to take it down because it constituted advertising for profit—a prohibited activity for a foundation.
Julie Quattrin, owner of floral and gift shop , said she'd like to see a business association like Placerville's Downtown Association, which hires a staff person, compiles a directory of shops, and hosts events like car shows and wine tastings.
"There's a lot of things they could do to bring money into the community—and not just money, but fun," she said.
Other items on the business owners' wish list include setting up a website that would list retail vacancies in the district, and creating a brochure with a map that could be handed out to shoppers. The retailers concluded by setting up a committee to explore joint advertising campaigns—either as an informal working group or as a new merchants' association.
Some said that when it came to supporting Elk Grove's historic center, their efforts were as much about preserving a small-town way of life as nurturing profitable businesses.
"First Friday is focused on how quaint this little town is, and strolling the street with your kids, seeing your friends," said Yolanda Molina, a foundation board member and owner of The Woof Rack pet apparel.
"If this were strictly about enhancing the merchants, I wouldn't be involved," added Frank Maita, Paula Maita's husband and a longtime Old Town resident. "I'm interested in providing some hope and a future for the street I grew up on."