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Up With Downtown

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The blossoming of large national discount retailers has resulted in far reaching changes in the way we buy and sell merchandise. In the process, we have changed the way our cities and small towns look and function. The impact is probably easiest to see in the downtowns of small and medium sized towns.

Traditional Main Street businesses struggle or quit while vacant business buildings watch the stream of cars hurrying to the discount stores. Some communities have given up hope for the central business district, demolishing beautiful old buildings, and creating ugly gaps in the smile of the city.

The loss of the downtown business district has deep implications for the quality and nature of life in our communities. Downtowns are our cities and towns’ cornerstones. They define who we are as a community. Without strong, distinctive downtowns, only the words on the city limits signs will tell us apart.

It doesn’t have to be that way. The survival of downtown should be the concern of all residents, not just the people making a living by owning stores or working in them. Communities working together can reinvigorate downtown. Retailers can prosper in the shadow of large retailing giants and expanding telemarketers. However, it requires a new way of looking at the world and at the customer. …

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