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Newbury Street may be closed to traffic on three summer Sundays

David Gilo and son Nicholas played Ping-Pong in the middle of Newbury Street last summer. Keith Bedford/Globe Staff

Make way for shoppers.

Following a successful pilot project last year, city officials announced Monday that they plan to shut down Newbury Street to traffic three times this summer, allowing people to stroll the nearly mile-long strip of shops and boutiques without the typical crush of traffic.

Details for “Open Newbury Street” are still in the works, according to Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s office. But preliminary plans call for keeping traffic off that road and several cross streets one Sunday each month in July, August, and September.

“After hearing from businesses and visitors, a lot of people said, ‘This is great, and we want more of this,’ ” said Sam Chambers, a spokesman for the city’s office of civic engagement. “This is something both the mayor and businesses on Newbury Street really enjoyed, and we think this will be another success.”


This year’s street closures will mirror the inaugural Open Newbury Street, a daylong event that proved to be a boon for many business owners and attracted thousands of shoppers.

Last year, the city shut Newbury Street from Berkeley Street to Massachusetts Avenue, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Some of the cross streets remained open to traffic for public safety reasons.

Chambers said the city is exploring the possibility of extending the number of blocks that will be shut to vehicles. Final details will be announced this week, he said.

The idea to close part of Newbury Street to cars first took shape in May last year, although the city said the concept had already been on its to-do list.

During a “Twitter chat” with Walsh, in which he answered people’s questions on social media, someone asked if the city would consider blocking the road to allow for a pedestrian takeover. A spokesman said Walsh’s office was looking into the plan. The curious resident was told to “stay tuned.”


Then, in August, it happened.

For many, Newbury Street became a pedestrian paradise, with no cars, trucks, or duck boats to interrupt a walk through the Back Bay. Bands played music, people tossed Frisbees, and others relaxed in lawn chairs while taking in the atmosphere.

The event also allowed for restaurants to place additional seating outside, and shop owners to put tables and racks of clothes in front of their establishments.

Walsh declared the street closing a hit (although his choice of wardrobe — cargo shorts — was heavily criticized) and promised to continue discussions about future opportunities.

Meg Mainzer-Cohen, president of the Back Bay Association, said the organization will work closely with businesses to ensure they get the most out of the outdoor experience.

“We really learned that businesses that participated last year — hands down, by far — had the more successful day than those who didn’t,” she said. “We’re thinking through how to make Open Newbury Street a success for all the different business sectors.”

Steve Annear can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @steveannear. Globe correspondents Jeremy C. Fox and Trisha Thadani contributed to this report.