Maybe now downtown will begin to thrive
How soon we forget. Appeal reporter Amanda Hammon’s detailed piece on the ins and outs of downtown redevelopment was quite thorough. However, there are some things that may have been overlooked.
When the redevelopment district was formed in 1986 the redevelopment authority was placed in the hands of a committee of Carson City citizens. This committee made little headway due to the initial lack of funding generated by the new law and the then stable tax base.
Once the redevelopment funds became more lucrative it was decided by the Board of Supervisors to take back the redevelopment responsibility because “they had more experience in spending the public’s money.” Oh, how true that is.
Meanwhile an organization called Carson City Mainstreet was formed in the early ’90s using the criterion developed by the national Mainstreet organization. Since I was very active, and on the Mainstreet Board of Directors for years, I thought it would be appropriate to put in a plug for an organization of great individuals who tried very hard to accomplish a very difficult task.
The Mainstreet principles and philosophy had been quite successful in downtown areas across the U.S. with similar problems that were identified in Carson City. At that time there were over 26 distressed business in the downtown corridor from Washington St. to 5th St. Mainstreet was a group of volunteers with minimal support from donations of downtown businesses but they did help offset the costs of one full time employee.
Mainstreet did work on architectural guidelines for downtown businesses, surveys and solicitations were made dealing with parking issues and to various other types of businesses deemed suitable for downtown. There were many promotions and events put on by Mainstreet to bring the community into the downtown core to show the potential of business development.
Why didn’t Mainstreet work? NO MONEY, and few businesses willing to take a chance on spending theirs. Mainstreet eventually lost its role downtown after the city began bonding for redevelopment incentives and had funds to encourage timid entrepreneurs that downtown was a good place to be. The few who remained in Mainstreet were absorbed into a Chamber of Commerce committee and the rest has been outlined in detail by the Appeal article.
One of the biggest problems during that entire era was the lack of community interest and lack of pride in what the downtown area presented to those driving through it. It looks much better 10 years later, but there’s more work yet to be done.