Balancing beauty and commerce
It is a balancing act and I have more questions today than answers. And one of those questions is "How does a community support and assist business owners to thrive and at the same time create a downtown that attracts and provides a vibrant and beautiful area for that business?"
This question comes as a result of two separate Price City Council meetings in the past couple of months where business owners, who recently purchased new properties to relocate their businesses, felt that existing trees in front of the properties are a detriment to the success of their endeavors. In both cases the owners wanted to have the trees chopped down.
As a businessman and a supporter of downtown commerce I understand how tough it is out there. That is especially in the light of the large unattractive box stores that seem to have popped up on the edge of every small city in America, that promote cheap prices and little else.
The answer in my eyes is not to get rid of the trees, but to create win-win situations. We need to continue developing plans that will rehabilitate downtown Price's historical buildings. We need to continue to plan, design, and install streetscape improvements that include trees and we need to continue building our downtown so it is vibrant, prosperous and beautiful.
Price has wonderful new streets for most of the downtown area and I can think of at least three businesses that have or are remodeling their buildings. Many people over the years have worked hard at developing, planting and preserving the beauty of downtown and it is important to continue creating an inviting and interesting area.
Several months ago I wrote an editorial on "branding" a community. That is the process where a community develops an image or an experience. We need to continually create fresh ideas and concepts so when people from outside of our area think about Price they think about how inviting it is. Developing this brand, both to improve negative connotations and to establish positive images takes time and a lot of work. Price City has done a lot of work and has gone to a lot of effort the past few years to create the Peace Gardens, fix the streets, plant trees, improve the city's entrances and upgrade the museum. The list can go on and on, but we continuously need to be on top of branding our community, if for no other reason than that other cities around us are doing it all the time too. We need to position ourselves for whatever is on the next horizon.
But at the same time we need to develop ways to assist our small businesses downtown to be able to grow and thrive and market their services and products. Grants are available and volunteers are willing.
Over the years I have seen some incredible small towns and cities pull themselves up by the boot strings and work hard at changing their image by developing both an inviting and a thriving downtown.
When the newest biggest "box" store moved into Oregon about 10 years ago, I saw what Klamath Falls did to ensure that their downtown would stay healthy. They planted more trees, brought in more galleries, encouraged more unique businesses to start up, refurbished an old court house and restored several historic buildings to tie in history, beauty, and commerce. Today they are thriving.
We have every bit as much history, beauty and ability to increase traffic in our downtown area in the same way if we continually work together and build from our strengths.
Downtown is still the heart of our community and I want to always see it stay that way. But that will take work, cooperation and vision on the part of everyone involved in our community.