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City plans to shut down Newbury Street to cars for one day

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Newbury Street.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff

Taking a stroll down a Newbury Street devoid of cars could happen sooner than you think.

City officials said Thursday that for months they've been devising a plan to close at least a portion of the street to traffic for one day this summer.

By mid-June, Mayor Martin J. Walsh's office expects to announce which day pedestrians will be able to take over the bustling shopping district.

"The ability to let the public and pedestrians go in a place normally owned by vehicles … and not be hindered by traffic and worry about crossing the street is a good thing," said Jerome Smith, Walsh's chief of civic engagement. "The mayor wants to see more people enjoying public spaces and being outside."


The idea gained significant attention Wednesday, during a Twitter chat with the mayor and his staff.

Adam Castiglioni, who runs a Boston hospitality blog, asked about the feasibility of blocking off certain roads in busy business districts to traffic.

The city responded by saying the concept was on their agenda. Smith said during a telephone interview Thursday that officials have been working on the plan since the winter.

He said Walsh had challenged his office to come up with an idea that would spark public engagement.

Inspired by similar initiatives in cities like Paris, where Mayor Anne Hidalgo recently committed to closing off the Champs-Elysees for one day per month to cars, staff members presented their proposal.

For now, Boston's plan to let pedestrians roam free on Newbury Street would be limited to a single day, and act as a pilot. If the event attracted enough attention and interest from the public, the city would think of ways to expand, Smith said.

"We want to do it once, and see how it works," he said. "Maybe we can get to a point where we do it once a month, if the businesses were comfortable."


Many details about the plan still need to be addressed. Officials are working with businesses, delivery drivers, and residents in the area to best accommodate them in the event of a full or partial street closure.

Smith said the city also needs to take into account certain safety measures, including making sure emergency vehicles have access to surrounding neighborhoods.

"The great part about it is, there's excitement," he said. "But we have to take care of a couple concerns."

A specific date and duration of the event are also still up in the air. But Jacob Wessel, Walsh's liaison for the Beacon Hill, Fenway, Mission Hill, and Back Bay neighborhoods, said he's been working closely with all parties involved, taking the pulse of the neighborhood.

"I have been hearing great things," said Wessel. "I think it will bring a lot of new eyes and fresh faces to the street to showcase all the great shopping and cultural activities that exist."

Steve Annear can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.