The wall is almost up, the bathroom and concessions building has taken shape. The Broadway Plaza is on its way to completion. As we move closer and closer to the finish line it is important to think back and remember why we started this project in the first place.
We were getting closer to the end of the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district lifespan. TIF was passed when I was in high school. I will admit I wasn’t paying much attention then. Those who passed it had an immediate need and a vision. The immediate need was building infrastructure to support the Super Walmart. The vision was to extend the district to include highway 81 commercial district and the downtown to do more economic development projects and fix some crumbling infrastructure.
Fifteen years into that plan, we still had not addressed our downtown. City officials, community members and business owners identified a problem for downtown: more foot traffic was needed. What could we do to increase foot traffic for downtown that would be within allowable TIF expenditures? We could do the predictable streetscaping. You’ve seen it in downtowns across the state. The typical black old fashioned street lights, the scattered benches, the plants. These are great things, but they do not substantially move the dial. With an empty lot in our downtown, we had an opportunity to do something more.
A handful of communities across the United States tried something a little different. They implemented event spaces to host concerts, plays, flea and farmer’s markets to enhance the life of their citizens. They didn’t stick these spaces in their parks or in residential areas. They put these places smack dab in the heart of their downtowns. Suddenly, sales tax receipts increased, storefronts were filled, and the quality of life for citizens improved.
These are the things I want for our town. These are the things I want for my kids.
Check back in next week when we will outline the benchmarks we’ve set to call the Plaza a success.