In March of 2020, the whole world stopped. Schools shut down, millions of people started working from home and were confined to their homes. All gatherings, large and small, came to an end. Months went by with very little social interaction and the scope of daily routines began feeling lonely. Times were tough for small businesses with so many people adapting to a new world of virtual connection.
The new meaning of Main Street: togetherness
Rockford Outdoor Refreshment Area
For many around the world, coming together was no longer an option for the holidays. But for one Michigan town, a member of the city council asked, can’t we find a way? Within weeks, the city came together and decided to close Main Street off to cars, fire pits were constructed and an array of seating set up right in the middle of the street. RORA (Rockford Outdoor Refreshment Area) opened to the public the week before Christmas…lights were strewn through the street and covered every tree, and Christmas music played on speakers overhead. With freshly falling snow, it was a magical scene straight from a movie.
RORA has brought people to town, kept our businesses going, and has put Rockford on the map! RORA is a social district which is not a new concept, but the Main Street closure is what really made our town stand out. We are so grateful for an opportunity like this that brought the Chamber, The City, and the community together in such a difficult time.
Families could gather at safe distances for the first time in over half a year. Many realized for the first time the value of a spontaneous encounter with a stranger and making eye contact with new faces as they passed by on the street.
It’s springtime now and RORA continues to be a bustling gathering place for families & friends to gather and greet each other. The community has embraced the concept and it has become a destination for weekend fun.
Road to (re)connecting
Reports of boost in business for the local establishments have been heartwarming. Stories abound of relatives and friends seeing each other for the first time in months at RORA. The city realized that the benefit of this space for fostering connection and community during a difficult time was higher than it was as a pass-way for cars.
This is the new Main Street, with a small consequence of walking a bit further to your parked car. As Rockford realized the value of these meaningful connections for the community, it will be become a new standard for planning…making a long term investment in togetherness.
The City was quite proud to partner with several local businesses, who made this idea such a special place for people to gather. Extremis heard of our plans to create a gathering place, and quickly volunteered several of their amazing pieces of furniture for the public to use in our Main Street. Without the local support from businesses like Extremis, main street would not have been so well received by the public, and for their support, we are grateful. We are proud to have businesses like Extremis in our City, who actively assist in making our City so great.