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IS IT TRUE July 15, 2013
IS IT TRUE a walk through downtown Evansville on Friday morning at 11 am during a period of wonderful weather that is not characteristic of July in Southwest Indiana looks little different commercially than it did back in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s when downtown Evansville was placed on the endangered list?…a count of “available” or abandoned storefronts yielded 33 which is essentially the same number as the 32 that were available or empty 15 years ago?…from a commercial perspective downtown Evansville has not changed materially in that time with about 10 similar restaurants, some antique shops, a law office or 3, and absolutely zero interesting or unique boutiques?…the look of Main Street has changed some with the addition of the Ford Center and Innovation Pointe but for the most part private dollars have done little or nothing on Main Street at street level?…at 11 am on Friday one could stand at the Ford Center and fire a rifle down both sidewalks and the street and endanger no one?…foot traffic picked up a little during the lunch break but from an activity perspective the place was dead?
IS IT TRUE entering some establishments and speaking with the proprietors regarding what the Ford Center has done for them only two stated that their business has grown and those were the two bars that displaced perfectly good antique shops to accommodate the thirst of Ford Center patrons after events?…it is interesting that the total seating capacity of the Ford Center support bars is less than 5% of the capacity of the Ford Center, yet seats are still available after events in both bars?…New Wave Bars rages on as always to the disdain of the people who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars for condos within sound distance of it?…in reality when examining the amount of rules, investment and red tape that is required to establish an exemplary business in downtown local government spending has done nearly nothing that has spurred development and has actually taken actions that make opening a business downtown financially dangerous?
IS IT TRUE that in late 2010 the owners of the old Farmer’s Daughter at the corner of Main Street and 3rd Streets arranged for an auction of the building to divest of a non-performing asset?…the auction resulted in NO BIDS and the building has not changed one iota since then?…we were told it is for sale for a paltry sum of $165,000 (about $10 per square foot) but that the City of Evansville will require the buyer to spend $300,000 to bring the building up to current codes?…the code requirements basically render this building to be valueless?…most investors (all if you consider the time it has been empty) would not take this building if it were offered to them for free?…the utility bills in these endangered old buildings can be 5 times or more higher than new efficient buildings on either the east or west sides?…given the local government regulations coupled with obsolescence due to inefficiency one would have to conclude that Ford Center or not downtown Evansville will be in a permanent state of 30 to 35 empty store fronts unless something is done to mitigate this sorry situation?
IS IT TRUE if say 40 storefronts were all in need of energy efficiency and code upgrades of say $300,000 each the total investment needed to make these supposed treasures attractive to a business is a paltry $12 Million?…for the cost of a mere dog park or two, six little league fields, or a facelift for Mesker the biggest objections to downtown commercial development could be removed?…we really wonder why such a thing has not been thought of at the other end of Main Street where such advocacy and action is supposed to come from?…we are not endorsing such a thing but we certainly think if Evansville has an extra $12 Million laying around (which it doesn’t but acts like it does) and something with real potential is of interest to elected officials, this would do much more for Evansville than dog parks, skateboard ramps, or little league fields?…it may not save Main Street from the inevitable wrecking ball but this modest upgrade of existing buildings may just do something that the $127 Million Ford Center didn’t, dog parks won’t, and ball fields have no prayer of doing?…that would be giving merchants a reason to consider downtown as a viable alternative?