Lowell Live Feed on Facebook has a discussion thread about a new report on Lowell’s downtown and the related issues of parking, business mix, etc. I began to comment on the thread, but my comment got long so I decided to post it here on the blog.
I think Yogi Berra said, That place is so crowded nobody goes there. If there are so few downtown spaces available, why aren’t the people parked in the spaces spending money nearby? If there were no cars, that would be a problem. I’ve always thought Elliot’s Lunch (Famous Hot Dogs) and the Owl Diner were case studies that proved the customers will find a way to buy what they want. Neither eatery has ideal parking.They are not in the center of downtown. Yet they succeed based on product quality and reputation. I believe people will make the effort. We have many garages, thanks to past City officials. Cote’s Market is another example. Especially after a blizzard. Tough to park. But people keep going in the door. And another thought. With a downtown business district laid out in the 19th century, maybe there are too many existing, available storefronts (business locations) for a 21st century downtown. Maybe there should be more living downtown, which is the way it is trending. Why consider it a failure to not commercialize every space that looks like it should have a business, as if it is still 1895 or 1945? There are scores of small businesses all around the city. More than 200 Cambodian-American small businesses, I’ve been told. We have business vitality. In the former Father John’s Medicine building, people live on the first floor. I think that is correct. Could we have more of that? Maybe the strategy should change. Go for more people. Then a business network for residents, students, visitors, and others can grow organically. I feel that we are trying to shoehorn a 21st century business reality into a 19th century business shoe. Something doesn’t fit. The conditions have changed.