by Charlie Andrews
The Decline Again
Over time, most organizations, businesses or communities fall into a routine. There is no individual fault, yet we are all at fault as we become comfortable, and complacency creeps into our routine. This is a difficult thing to combat, but it is particularly disastrous for what is essentially a marketing effort. We need to continue finding ways of increasing our marketing to the outside world, and ways of funding it. Our efforts have stalled, because our current plan for addressing this is no longer effective.
The downtown’s new decline is now apparent and has begun a vicious cycle. As empty storefronts appear, they are not soon filled with new merchants. They remain empty, become trashy looking, weeds are beginning to grow and tree wells are not maintained.
Stores become harder to rent, and rents start dropping. This allows less-credible merchants in who do not maintain or improve their storefronts, sidewalks, window displays, etc. The gutting of the sign ordinance further enhanced this deterioration. These less-credible merchants don’t stay long, and we are left with either another empty and now further- deteriorated site, or another less-credible merchant who is not going to last either.
All this means fewer people on the sidewalks, so they become attractive to skateboarders and bicyclists. This is illegal, but because there are fewer merchants or shoppers to complain, even less attention is paid to the downtown. Even traffic and crosswalk enforcement declines for the same reasons.
An ominous indicator of the downtown’s decline is that this year (2004) a building owner applied for and received a zoning exemption to convert a storefront into a residential apartment. For the downtown, this is “the kiss of death.”