A small band of Lansdale Business Association members have approached the parks and recreation and public safety committees on the logistics of getting First Friday back in Lansdale, beginning April 6.
North Penn Community Network, the former organizer of the event, has dropped the First Friday event.
Now, owner Charles Booz and owner Ellen Foulke want to revive First Friday as a not-for-profit event.
They also want to make it more mature and casual than the prior First Fridays.
"The goal is to get Main Street excited again," Booz told the public safety committee. "The event had left a bad taste in many of the Main Street vendors. We want to make that connection again and get it going."
He said the group wants to lay groundwork for what is required, so it can eventually be taken over by Discover Lansdale.
Last week, the parks and recreation committee approved 3-0 to allow use of Railroad Plaza for the new First Friday.
Booz and Foulke also went before the public safety committee and it offered its help in the future when a more solid business plan is in place.
"It's our understanding that North Penn Community Network will not be continuing First Friday this year, and most businesses with whom I've spoken to are eager to see that it continues this season," Booz told the parks and recreation committee. "Ellen Foulke from the Business Center, the LBA and many other interested parties and I would like to find out what the requirements are to host a similar event."
Insurances, timetables, required permissions and such are what Booz was looking for, prior to formulating any plans to share with the Lansdale community.
"Our goal is to start First Friday on April 6 and imploring a more casual, mature approach," Booz said. "We would like to invite sidewalk merchants, artists, and business owners to work collectively to encourage residents and visitors to take a pleasant entertaining stroll through Lansdale, hopefully shopping and eating along the way."
Booz said the group wants to use Railroad Plaza, the Susquehanna Avenue parking lot at Main Street and the intersection of N. Richardson Avenue and Main Street for First Friday. He said they are open to other suggestions for other areas.
There is talk right now of having no kids' zone at Main and Susquehanna.
"It's important that we are able to communicate the parameters effectively. For instance, what departments and forms and permits and commitments would be needed to oversee and include anyone who is interested in sponsoring the event," Booz said. "This would not be a for-profit venture."
He said businesses who paid to participate last year are looking forward to using any budgeted funds to put on a show for patrons to promote their own enterprises.
"Our hope is that funding and entertaiments will be done via the desire of the individual owners of the businesses," he said.
He added that any indirect costs for the event would be absorbed by the borough, as it will take responsibility for the investment to make the event possible.
Booz added that the newly-formed non-profit Discover Lansdale could eventually take over the event.
"Because it's been hosted for two years now, there's already talk about what's coming. I'd like to keep the ball rolling," Booz said. "Our concern is by the time Discover Lansdale gets in progress, we'll have missed a good part of the spring."
Booz offered to be the point person for this group in the interim, representing Chantilly Floral.
Borough parks director Carl Saldutti said the committee can grant permission to use Railroad Plaza. Use of sidewalks for vendors and use of lots for other purposes is at the behest of other committees.
Saldutti said the group would need to obtain a certificate of insurance naming Lansdale Borough as an additional insured party. He said the levels of coverage are usually $1 million to $2 million in aggregate and general liability coverages.
As far as closing down streets and the like, Booz said he didn't know what to expect at this point.
"We don't know how much participation we are going to get from this," he said. "I want to do this low key. I'm not looking to have the amount of festivities that (NPCN owner Tom Beckett) had. I want to start this small, let it nurture and grow."
Booz said there was a lot of friction between Main Street business owners and Beckett.
"I think this is an opportunity for Main Street to take control of something and do it themselves," he said.
Foulke added that there are individuals and businesses who are not Main Street businesses who may wish to participate, such as businesses at The Pavilion.
Saldutti wanted to be clear that the parks and recreation department or the borough was not organizing the event.
"We would like to act as a clearinghouse for events that take place," he said. "We would like to have the information to share with individuals that call us."
He added that previous First Fridays used the core downtown area as the epicenter of it all, but recognized the participation of periphery merchants.
Resident Jean Fritz asked why NPCN cancelled First Friday. No one on the committee had a specific answer, only speculation.
Booz said one reason could have been that NPCN was a for-profit enterprise and there "probably was none."
Booz said the group will be working with Beckett to find out what worked and didn't work with First Friday.
"In regard to dealing with the borough and public safety, I go to you guys rather than get it secondhand from him, only to get different information. I'm going right to the source," Booz said. "I'll reach out to Tom when we have all our ducks in a row."
At the public safety committee, Booz told them he was not looking for a whole lot of fanfare, just access to sidewalks for people to stroll and check out new stores coming in.
He said each individual business owner would sponsor some kind of entertainment, if they wish, outside their storefront.
"We want to get it more organized, more of an adult environment as oppose to where it was before," Booz said.
He said they were not looking for any road closures yet.
"We want to start out small, it's still early," he said. "I don't know what businesses are looking for. I know what I would like in front of my business."
Public safety committee chairman Mike Sobel said the committee was flexible with Beckett. He said the group would need to communicate whatever closures it needed and keep the police involved with the progress.
The group will head before the Lansdale Parking Authority this month to get permission to use the lot next to the North Penn Boys and Girls Club.
Foulke also asked the public safety committee what types of forms the group may be able to obtain to share with store owners, to say these are the types of matters that they may address to visitors who are not part of Main Street businesses.
"Maybe they would have different rules than the store owner would, in terms of liability or access. What if they want to use the sidewalk and the store owner said no. Where can we invite them to participate? Can it be zoned out in some way that businesses from The Pavilion can be in a particular lot, like Railroad Plaza would be them, or is it too complicated?" Foulke said.
She added that once everything was finalized, a synopsis would be prepared for all the committees.
Chief Robert McDyre said the committee and police were willing to work with the group.
"Keep in touch," he said. "We'll do whatever you need."