08/27/08 — Surprised? Downtown survey shows it takes more than 'looks'

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Surprised? Downtown survey shows it takes more than 'looks'

The Downtown Goldsboro Development Corporation seemed surprised to learn that Goldsboro residents weren't taking advantage of the offerings of downtown Goldsboro.

And they were even more taken aback by the fact that many of those surveyed said the reason they did not head downtown was that they did not think it was safe to be there.

And while DGDC officials might be surprised, the rest of us aren't -- not when it comes to the public's concerns about downtown Goldsboro and its future.

Most residents know that while there might be plans in place to improve the storefronts and to bring more residential investment downtown, there is still some baggage that is making some people cautious about jumping on the downtown bandwagon.

Some of that might be misconceptions, but the rest is what can be seen and heard in the downtown area. While there are strides being made and some areas where there is a vibrant clientele, others are too near several parts of the city that appear in the news associated with drugs and crime. Others simply aren't stuffed full of shoppers and diners.

And to not acknowledge that this hampers efforts to bring more people downtown would be foolish.

But in the end, what the survey results teach is that no matter how much you spin -- and how much you pretty an area up -- the bottom line is that city residents have to believe in the project and be willing to support the result.

There are many factors that probably are contributing to this dim view of downtown -- and you have to admire DGDC officials for releasing rather than sitting on the survey results.

One of the biggest problems probably is that there is still not enough business investment downtown -- or enough of a fire created by the reopening of the Paramount Theatre.

Perhaps that will come, but for now, there just isn't enough there to bring more people downtown.

And then there are the crime areas. Yes, there might be less crime in the actual defined downtown area, but there is too much too close for comfort for some residents and that prompts them to make other choices.

If the DGDC wants to move forward, the first order of business is to take these results and look not at what the downtown hopes to be, but what it is, right now. Addressing residents' concerns will help pave the way for more people to consider giving the downtown area a chance and might result in a different story next year.

The job won't be easy -- not that it has been to this point -- but in the end, it just might create the buzz and support this project needs to flourish.

Facing that challenge is the first step to success.

Published in Editorials on August 27, 2008 11:09 AM