June 22, 2009
There’s been a lot of text and a lot of talk lately about what needs to be “done” about the state of downtown Sedalia. The real answer is this: We need to spend time there and spend money there. Instead of doing all this talking and planning, we could all go downtown and support our local businesses.
We can make the shop fronts look like postcards and upholster the cement with goose down and silk, but the only “improvement” that the sidewalks and the streets really need is a influx of people. What if Lee’s Summit’s fancy streetscape concept doesn’t work as well for us as it did for them?
Kansas City Power & Light moved into town about a year ago; maybe we can get them to build us a ritzy entertainment complex that they ultimately can’t pay for just like they did in the city that shares their name! (I’m kidding, something like a Sedalia Power & Light District would probably increase downtown traffic pretty well as long as we secure some secure funding.)
Just think of it: We could have a stage for local and exotic talent. I’m sure that there are local bands that would love to have a permanent, open-air showcase for their talent. It is sad that even La Monte has a better local music scene. We can have open stage nights where we cultivate and exhibit new talent. A musical reputation would bring people in just as it does in places such as Nashville and Branson.
They would probably play for free if we would make them a venue; we could have a live local band every Saturday night.
A new entertainment district downtown would let potential businesses know that we’re serious about bringing this area back into prominence. We could get them to foot a little bit of the bill in exchange for giving them a little bit of input as to what the complex should look like. Furnell has the right idea with their Landmark building. Some might insist that only local businesses should be allowed to establish themselves in downtown Sedalia, but I fear that will not be enough to keep the area afloat.
The Democrat’s Courtney Hudson reported on an interesting idea that Meg Liston had: a Web site for downtown Sedalia. Downtown Sedalia should have its own site and it should have a gigantic message board. All the business owners could talk about their latest sales or special offers and the farmers could talk about what exciting new produce they are going to bring down to the market this week.
We can bring the people in if we make downtown Sedalia more open and accessible. A well-populated message board could do just that. Everyone who lives and works downtown could use this forum to convince everyone, Sedalian or otherwise, that downtown Sedalia is a steadfast little neighborhood that is well worth visiting.
Anyone would be able to join and have any sort of opinion they want to have because it will all add up to good market research. Is the new ice cream flavor at the Copper Wolfe a hit? Ask the people on the board. Just how many guns does the Osage Pawn Shop have? Ask the owner, he’s here giving and taking opinions. Are the buildings a little bit too symmetrical? You know where to ask.
Downtown Sedalia needs a new direction. “Historic” is an appealing word when you’re trying to draw the ragtime crowd but there are a lot of people who see “historic” as just another tourist buzzword. The success of downtown Sedalia will depend on us creating a perfect compound of historic and futuristic. Keep the buildings, they look great and have architecture that will be appreciated in the far future; but make the interior more accessible and sleek. Do you really want to walk into a place that smells like an attic and is intimidating in a “Don’t touch the things in Grandma’s room” sort of way? The chocolate buildings surrounding the nougat are mighty sweet, but the archaic center leaves something to be desired. Downtown Sedalia has to be embraced by visitors as a place where people of all ages go to do almost anything.
We can put a dead man in a tuxedo, but if nobody shows up at the funeral then it is all a waste. We need to work on the fundamentals of why we don’t have enough people going downtown. Is it the streets? The monsters who live in the Trust Building? The suspicious lack of grass and other such greenery? I know this might sound out of date, but what I think we need are focus groups. Round up some buses and bring people from Sedalia and all over the state and pay them a little to ramble around downtown. Ask them specific questions about specific things, but also leave them room to talk about things we might not have thought about — act on these results when the response is overwhelming and clear.
Let’s bring downtown Sedalia into the 21st century and make it the destination for all ages and all creeds. It can be great again, and we’re just the people to do it.