McMullen: Downtown Sedalia boosters have some great ideas
I’m sure you all read the story in the weekend edition of The Sedalia Democrat about the Downtown Business Boosters, one of the newer groups doing their part to revitalize downtown Sedalia.
It’s great that some of the business owners of Sedalia decided to get together and do something. They have good ideas, and I think we’d all like to see downtown Sedalia thrive.
At their latest meeting on Oct. 17, the DBB zeroed in on a few particular points of interest, and I’m going to go a little deeper into each one to explain why they might help downtown Sedalia and/or how they might be implemented.
• “Improving the availability of parking space for patrons of downtown businesses.” Yes, one of the essential parts of any successful retail and entertainment district is a good place to park one’s car. Nobody’s going to come around if they have to spend hours circling the general area looking for good parking.
We can’t start from the ground up and build an imbedded parking garage in the middle of each block like they do at the Country Club Plaza and other attractions in Kansas City and other places throughout the country.
But on the other hand, we really can’t increase the parking directly in front of each downtown business. That is one of the disadvantages of a city area with many locations that are crammed next to each other. There are some downtown businesses that technically only have the two or three car lengths on the edge of the street available to their customers.
We might have to look at taking some of the existing non-street parking lots and converting them into parking garages.
• “Addressing the problem of pests (pigeons, feral cats, rats) in the downtown area.” The most immediate symptom of a downtown building that has been allowed to deteriorate is the possibility of a collapse. We’ve seen that first-hand over the past few months and years. But one of the other problems that can come from building negligence is their propensity for becoming a haven for various invasive pest species.
Yes, buildings that have been practically abandoned will slowly be reclaimed by nature. Rats, cats, birds and bugs of all sizes have been creating miniature ecosystems in some of the empty spaces and cracks of downtown Sedalia. And they sometimes use them as launching points to make their way into the better-occupied spaces.
But it seems like this is a smaller microcosm of the real problem: If the buildings weren’t being neglected in the first place than the infestations wouldn’t pop up quite so easily. Fumigation and other friendlier methods of animal removal won’t bring back deadbeat owners, but they could help keep the space we are actually using more human-friendly.
• “Cleaning up un-tended Dumpsters and other trash.” That’s something we all need to work on. Not just as a downtown or an uptown but the town in general. I don’t think downtown Sedalia is particularly more prone to accumulate garbage, or that it is has more of it than any other part of town. Though it is probably true that there are probably more “un-tended” Dumpsters in downtown Sedalia than any other part of town. Deal with your buildings and your Dumspters, people!
• “Welcoming visitors to Sedalia who arrive on the Amtrak and ensuring they have appropriate transportation from the Amtrak station to their destinations.” Sure, people appreciate a warm welcome and they appreciate being accommodated. Maybe we need to have a taxi cab stand next to the Amtrak depot. Maybe we even need a miniature visitor’s center.
• “Finding or creating a comprehensive map of downtown that includes downtown businesses.” I think this is the most important one, at least when you take it to its logical conclusion. Yes, we need to settle on a map that features all of the businesses and attractions of downtown Sedalia. We need to make brochures with that map. We need to erect a couple of shopping mall-style “You Are Here” signs at strategic locations so that visitors can find exactly what they’re looking for.
This is an important step in the goal that we need to aspire to: We need to sell downtown Sedalia as a whole location, as a package destination. It should be like a town within a town and it should all be remarkably consistent. It might pay to split it into color coded quadrants with cutesy names.
I think we might even benefit from giving the whole place an updated designation. How does “The Shoppes at Downtown Sedalia” sound? All right, that’s a bit too cheesy.
We’ll work on it.
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