Bringing Back Main Street
May 10, 2012
Radio SmartTalk May 10, 2012
Anyone born before 1970 can remember what Main Street in small towns or Market Street in cities used to look like. If you were born since then, try to picture it.
The downtown streets were always busy. The sidewalks would be crowded with pedestrians throughout the daytime and into the evening. Mom and pop or family-owned businesses made up a large part of the shopping district, but so did nationally-known department stores. There were even chain supermarkets, along with the local corner stores that sold food, candy and sodas. Restaurants were often full, catering to workers on their lunch breaks or the regular customers who sat and sipped coffee and talked for long hours. If you lived outside the town or city limits, a trip "uptown" or "downtown", depending on your parochialism, was always anticipated.
But then it all changed. City dwellers moved to the suburbs -- many to escape declining infrastructures, poor schools, and crime. The automobile made it all easier. The family didn't have retail businesses nearby but they could drive everywhere. The introduction of shopping malls in the suburbs was a game changer. There was no need to battle the traffic, try to find a parking spot or feed coins into the meter when dozens of stores were located under one roof, away from the elements, and there were hundreds of free parking spaces available.
As this migration occurred, Main and Market Street suffered. There were a lot of boarded up and empty storefronts as businesses and jobs followed to the suburbs.
It took awhile for towns and cities to recover. Some never have but in the last 20 years, downtowns have been transforming themselves. They may not be what they once were but the ones that have made themselves destinations offer a variety of amenities like restaurants, bars and taverns, entertainment, the arts, and sports venues.
On Thursday's Radio Smart Talk, we'll focus on how towns and cities have transformed their Main Streets and what they did to become successful once again. What works in bringing a town back and what doesn't? Is the cost worth it?
Guests include Bill Fontana, Executive Director of PA Downtown Center and Dr. Chad Kimmel, an associate professor of Sociology at Shippensburg University, who has studied and written about Main Streets.
To listen to the program follow this URL: http://www.witf.org/smart-talk/bringing-back-main-street