08/15/10 — Vision for future: Center Street improvements are necessary step forward for downtown

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Vision for future: Center Street improvements are necessary step forward for downtown

Money is tight these days, so some people might wonder why city officials are considering beginning a downtown streetscape project at all.

Aren't there better places to spend the money? Couldn't the money be saved for a more productive project down the road or used to offset current expenses in the city? Can't this wait until the economy is a little better?

Sure, maybe. There are always reasons to second guess a decision to move forward on an improvement or a project that has no specific deadline dictated by an immediate obligation.

But here's why this might be the time for this particular project.

Let's start with -- it's time.

Downtown Goldsboro has not had a major overhaul in years -- decades really -- and it shows. Let's face it -- that is one of the reasons why it is tough to get people and businesses downtown.

A project like Streetscape is a first step -- a redesign that will start the ball rolling. And right now, getting a ball rolling is critical if we want to take advantage of the possibilities for this city's downtown anytime in the future.

Otherwise, we might as well close up the shutters and turn off the lights. Failing to move forward simply is not an option, not if we want to have a downtown that brings jobs and is a source of pride for this community.

There are plenty of examples of what can happen when a city decides to invest in itself -- especially in its downtown. There are shops and eateries, places for families to gather and more events and festivals. And, by the way, you do not have to be Charleston, S.C., or Wilmington, to have a vibrant and attractive downtown. It just takes time.

Sure we could wait -- for the next grant, the next windfall, the next economic upturn.

But that is not how you get ahead.

Look at how we got here. People took a chance. They built businesses, created storefronts and homes and took a leap of faith that if they invested in their community, people would locate here and shop here.

And that is what we need to do now.

That does not mean that we should hand anyone a blank check, that we should spend irrationally, or that we should implement any plan without doing the necessary side work that will be required to make downtown a place where people want to be. And that could mean some tough decisions about traffic management, whom we encourage to open businesses in our revitalized downtown and how we control the crime and blight we know exist in some of the surrounding neighborhoods.

The block to begin with is the City Hall block. It will address the concerns of the businesses that are worried about the disruption to their customer flow at a time when the economic picture is already sluggish. And it will give the community a chance to try it out, to see for themselves just what a downtown makeover would do for their city.

After we see it, we can decide where to go next.

Change for the sake of change is not a good decision. And if that were what this was -- or if it were just a way to line the pockets of local businessmen -- this would be a project to reject categorically.

But investing in possibilities, when the money is available, and pushing ourselves to strive for something better is a strategy -- a way to push this community into its next reincarnation.

Just think of it as gathering together, once again, and pulling up the railroad tracks on Center Street.

No one knew exactly how that would turn out. They took a chance that they were making a decision that would -- longterm -- be the best move for the future of their city.

And that's how it works.

To make your community better, sometimes you have to do what is necessary, even if you are not quite sure it is the best time and you do not know exactly what the final result will be or the time frame in which to expect it.

That is how you make progress.

Published in Editorials on August 15, 2010 12:18 AM