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CRUISIN' CHIPPEWA GAINS SUPPORT, HOPES TO EXPAND

The classic-car show that closed off a stretch of Chippewa Street on Tuesday night won the support of some early critics and already is prompting organizers to push to expand the event's boundaries.

Cruisin' Chippewa attracted between 1,500 and 2,000 people, who meandered up Chippewa from Elmwood Avenue to Pearl Street to view about 250 classic cars. Downtown residents and some neighborhood business owners who had been worried about noise and traffic snarls agreed Wednesday that the event was pulled off without a hitch.

Elissa Banas, who owns a home on Cary Street, said she thinks that a strong police presence made a big difference. Organizers also hired their own security officers.

"There were more police down here than ever," she said. "It would be nice to see the same level of police on the street on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays."

William Jones, who operates City Centre, a 14-story condominium tower at Main Street and Chippewa, agreed that the event caused no disruptions.

"I think it went pretty well, especially for the first week," said Jones, who initially had concerns when bar owners announced plans for the 11-week event.

Organizers predict that attendance will dramatically increase as a promotional campaign moves into high gear. At a City Hall meeting Wednesday, they raised the possibility of closing off one block of Delaware Avenue between Chippewa and Cary and one block of Franklin Street near Chippewa.

James S. Alfieri, president of the Chippewa Business and Property Owners Association, said many car owners were turned away Tuesday, while dozens of others waited on nearby streets for spots to open.

"I expect this thing to get much bigger," he told city officials Wednesday. "We don't want to have to shoo away all these people who come downtown."

Organizers added that the street-closing would minimize pedestrian hazards at Delaware and Chippewa. Chippewa is closed from Elmwood to Pearl on Tuesdays from 5 to 11 p.m., but the major intersections remain open.

David F. Granville, chairman of the city Special Events Committee, said any expansion would be subject to approval from Hampton Inn & Suites at Delaware and Cary.

Meanwhile, Mark Jaskula, a Common Council legislative assistant, noted that closing off even a one-block stretch of Delaware could hurt public transportation.

"It could pose a lot of problems for bus routes," said Jaskula, who raised the possibility of closing off two lanes of Delaware instead of the entire street, thereby allowing one lane of traffic in each direction during the event.

Some downtown business leaders and residents said Wednesday that police should beef up enforcement of the noise ordinance, especially as it relates to motorcycles without mufflers. Because of noise concerns, organizers of the cruise night decided not to allow bikers to showcase their vehicles along Chippewa.

Nancy Standish, events coordinator for the Chippewa entertainment district, said some bikers who showed up as spectators were upset by the decision. "I had one biker screaming at me, saying the mayor needs to be more concerned about the homicide rate than about bikers," she said.

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