Downtown Association Board is conducting a survey of members on the proposal Council person Jerry Stoll (Ward 1) presented at a Council work session February 22nd. I appreciate and affirm the Associations effort to actively participate in the conversation about downtown renewal. I responded to the survey saying:
1) I am not located on Dewey or on 5th Street.
2) I do not own or rent a building downtown.
3) I don’t know how closing the streets would impact the businesses downtown. Why do we go downtown? One of the consultants working with the city and county on the Comprehensive Plan said people’s perception of the availability of parking depends on their reason for being in downtown. If they are going downtown for this item there is not enough parking if they can’t park in front of the store that is their destination. If they are going downtown for an experience which includes picking up an item there is ample parking when they find a spot in the parking lot. I suspect the community and specific business have some significant work to do before closing the streets makes sense and would become an asset to the area.
4) I am in favor of removing the canopies. Removing the canopies would give downtown a more open and inviting feeling. Without the canopies individual businesses and the uniqueness of the architecture would be visible. Removing the canopies would also be a significant indication of downtown renewal.
5) Bricks: As many of the bricks need to be saved and reused as possible. The bricks provide a link with our history and focus the character of downtown. For outside events like concerts the bricks provide a unique or distinctive sound quality that enhances the participants’ experience. My understanding is that there is no increased cost in using the bricks.
6) A combination of updated communication tax, 2% assessment on the property and grants is an appropriate way to fund improvements of downtown.
Both Roger Brooks and Barry Howard said downtown North Platte is a treasure that should be the focus of our development efforts. They both, independent of each other, saw something special and valuable in downtown. We need to capitalize on this treasure.
Whether we close the streets or not, whether we institute an assessment on the property or not, whether we remove the canopies or not we must come together around a plan. Renewal of downtown will take collaboration between the business, property owners, and the community to be successful.
Progress is being made and using an old metaphor the iron is hot it is time to act. A to Z Books, the Espresso Shoppe, the theater to name three have taken significant steps to grow their businesses and the value of downtown. The Historical Society’s walking tour helps us remember and value the history our downtown grows from. The Farmers’ Market, an ever more important asset, continues to provide a sustainable outlet for farmers in our community. The Prairie Arts Center promises to be an asset to downtown.
Trying times call for working together in new ways. We see volunteers supporting local businesses, businesses taking advantage of new technologies to build what Seth Godin calls tribes. I have a stake in the success of downtown and the businesses that make up downtown as does every other citizen of our community.
The plan on the table is a good start and provides us something concrete to discuss. Let’s remove the canopies, use the bricks, spread the cost over the three proposed revenue streams and gather together to celebrate and grow downtown. We are worth it!