Street life: Ridgewood finds return of Pedestrian Plaza having immediate impact on business

Food, fun, yoga — and, oh, yeah, maybe a little shopping, too.

As municipalities around the state search for creative ways to bring residents — and shoppers — into their downtowns, Ridgewood took a page out of its recent past last weekend when it reopened its Pedestrian Plaza along East Ridgewood Avenue.

The Pedestrian Plaza, which began in 2020 and was used again in 2021, returns after a one-year hiatus. Municipal officials said it will be used throughout the summer and into the fall, likely shutting down sometime in October.

A ribbon-cutting marked the return of the Pedestrian Plaza.

And, why not: It’s an ultimate win-win.

So said Mayor Paul Vagianos.

“We are so excited to bring back the Pedestrian Plaza,” he said. “The restaurants and shops will be outside along with live music, entertainers, rides for the kids and so much more. Come play with us in the street. It’s going to be a great summer.”

Likely a more profitable one, too.

Funded through private donations from local businesses, the Pedestrian Plaza includes more than 100 participating organizations — groups that were eager bring the plaza back after they noticed a drop in year-to-year sales last summer, when the concept was not used.

Vagianos and town officials not only brought the idea back, they expanded and improved it by adding more events that would draw a wider audience.

The first weekend showed the diversity of activity the town is bringing to the plaza.

Programming started at 8 a.m. Saturday, with yoga in Van Neste Square. The afternoon featured a dance performance and live music from Viva Vallenato! Colombian Band. And, following the dinner hour, there was music in the park at Van Neste Square by the Jose Elias Project.

On Sunday, the morning started with yoga and meditation. Visitors had the opportunity to enjoy brunch and then return for an early evening jazz and pop performance by Chosen Circle.

This, in addition to retail stores and restaurants moving out onto the streets of the central business district.

Vagianos said the results were obvious.

With the roads closed and restaurants filled on Saturday evening, the Hudson Street garage was nearly at capacity, he said. Retailers not only reported increased sales compared to other weekends, but seating for dinner was limited across venues.

“In the Amazon economy, the Pedestrian Plaza is the only path forward for local merchants,” Vagianos said. “Our central business district is a hub for local families, and we can’t wait to showcase all it has to offer through October and beyond.”

The Pedestrian Plaza reopens this Saturday at 8 a.m.