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BLOG: How Can We Help Downtown Businesses

Despite their decision to remove 37 parking spaces downtown, the city council made a commitment for the city to strenghten support for downtown businesses. How can the city help?

At Tuesday night’s meeting, the city council unanimously voted to replace the gravel parking lot at the corner of University Drive and North Street with an expanded Kitty Pozer Park, much to the dismay of many business owners who are concerned that losing those spaces will impact their business.  As the council members spoke, they each voiced their concerns for the viability of downtown businesses, despite their vote on the parking lot.  They all also suggested a couple ideas to help attract customers downtown.  Some were more concrete than others.  Here are a few of them…

  • Create a task force to examine parking and other issues that impact businesses (Greenfield)
  • More events, such as a restaurant week (Drummond, Silverthorne)
  • Look at redeveloping Courthouse Plaza to bring an anchor and other uses (Meyer)
  • Expedite a traffic study to examine how traffic volume is impacting downtown businesses (Schmidt)
  • Think about how we can get pass-through traffic to stop and patronize businesses (Stombres)

In addition, city staff presented a few concepts for adding deck parking on city owned parcels, though their feasibility was questionable.

What do you think?  Are these ideas that would help downtown businesses?  Are they even plausible? 

have focused on adding more on-street parking.  I think that is another partial solution.  What are some others? 

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Stan Darke January 30, 2012 at 02:27 AM
Along with many of the good points above, I would say that bringing in a credible expert to evaluate the downtown is key, and not just leaving decisions of how to revitalize and permanently alter the design of our historic city up to city staff and council. While ideas from all are great, decisions should not be made until an expert planner is brought in. For example, if our goal is to be a downtown destination, and not a 'drive-thru' city, as it is now, would it not make sense to at least study on street parking, pedestrian crosswalks, and maybe even 4 way stop signs instead of lights at certain places? I am not a city expert, but I spent the day in Philly today and was amazed at how many busy intersections in their Old City section had stop signs instead of lights. This slows people down, even if there are a lot of them, including at a crosswalk at North Street where the fountain is, and the cars get up to 50mph. So what, we slow down traffic. Will some people get upset? Yes, maybe the ones who go that fast, who we really don't want driving through town anyway. They are not the ones stopping at our stores. At least look at it. Also, the plaza/park design should REALLY include a workable solution for a weekly event- such as the farmer's market, art shows, craft fairs, flea markets, music fests, etc. Concentrate on bringing a fraction of Fall Festival patrons to downtown on a weekly basis, by attracting them! And have events that businesses can take part in.
Stan Darke January 30, 2012 at 02:30 AM
Here's just one study that says stop signs are safer than stop lights. http://www.streetsblog.org/2011/04/26/to-get-safer-streets-traffic-lights-and-stop-signs-arent-the-answer/
Ben Glass January 30, 2012 at 11:51 AM
well, many of the businesses simply need to learn how to market themselves better. Gone are the days when you can rely on traditional brand building advertising. When I eat in Old Town there is very little attempt to capture my name, market back to me, make special offers to me...yes, this is much harder but successful businesses do this quite well. The parking is there but it is rather "invisible." I highly suggest that any small business go over to Amazon.com and read any of Dan Kennedy's "No. B.S...for small biz and entrepreneur.." books. He's coming out with a new one on guerrilla marketing for small businesses. You can't just rely on the city (aka government) to fix the problems. You have be be very proactive with your customers...deliver an outstanding service or product and KNOW who your raving fans are. Then market back to the. This can be done.
AB Woodall January 31, 2012 at 01:36 PM
This may negatively impact traffic through the city, but I've always wondered why North Street does not have on street parking during non-rush hours. The same can be said for University. Do people really need to fly down North from 6:30 pm to 6:30 am or on the weekends? Wouldn't it serve those businesses better if cars drove a bit more slowly through there anyway? I think part of the issue is that even if there were people frequenting the businesses in Old Town, you would never know it because all of the parking and activity is hidden from the street. We are social animals by nature. No one wants to go to a restaurant, bar or shopping that appears that it's empty from the outside.
Tony Stedman March 18, 2012 at 03:31 PM
I agree with the redevelopment of Courthouse Plaza.... that shopping center is really hurting for something. The safeway and shopping center in general has seen better days..... There is plenty of space to really make something nice out of it. I picture something like Fairfax Corner. The plaza is in a great location with plenty of parking but can't even be seen from Old Lee Highway or University. The city should allow for more signage to help businesses in the area. It seems that the city council doesn't want to help businesses.... business unfriendly issues like the meals tax(why should someone have to pay a tax for the priveledge of eating in a rundown shopping center in the City of Fairfax), and taking away much needed parking are both hurting businesses. It's no wonder new businesses are not attracted to this area and the ones that are here now have trouble surviving. There is much to do and the city really needs to bring in some experts to come up with a serious plan.

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