Attention turns to revitalization

A publisher’s view

No single idea extended at the recent town hall meeting will become the base for revitalizing downtown Oneonta, but a number of valid suggestions were made. Several people meeting in advance had come up with a well thought-out plan and presented it to the gathering. More will be heard of that.

The Blount Countian,
which sponsored the meeting with the city’s blessings, was gratified at the interested response of so many, most of them business people. The newspaper looks forward to further work of a committee now being formed.

A number of ideas that had been batted around as original or picked up from other towns didn’t surface, however.

One of these is to develop living spaces downtown, a move that’s underway in quite a few Alabama towns. In fact, it has a beginning here. One Oneonta family is living on two upper floors of a three-level building on main street where another couple reared a daughter two generations ago. Another is in the back of a building behind the owner’s active store.

One couple resides in a manufactured home perched atop a vacated store, while the residence of another is the second floor of a building facing the courthouse a block from main street.

One can know in advance that the issue of parking would be raised as an objection to downtown living, a valid objection. Even so, downtown living could stir activity and give renewed life where it’s sorely needed.

Main street has become increasingly empty as one after another buisness closes. Especially needed there are a grocery store, a drug store-pharmacy, an anchor store stocking widely varying merchandise of widely ranging quality, and a non-fast-food restaurant open at night.

Several businesses work hard at keeping their quarters attractive and inviting and at staying current with seasonal displays. Others seem not to have a clue that an appealing appearance does have a way of drawing customers. People sometimes respond without realizing just what it is to which they’re responding.

A few places downtown are woefully in need of paint. Too bad the city can’t buy buckets and buckets of it and talk the sheriff into having trusties apply it where it’s needed.

Insane? Yes, as long as it’s “Don’t spend my tax money on somebody else’s building!” – little thought given that as the town improves so does the quality of life of its residents improve – and so might the economy.

And those hopelessly deteriorated structures? Maybe it’s time for the city to condemn and raze the buildings. It’s difficult to take the course that arouses animosity and that might cost votes next election. But such are the hard choices of the office-holder that keep many from running for office.

In the growing interest in revitalizing Oneonta’s main street, nothing is taken from the economic value of the growing shopping center on Ala 75 north of downtown. It offers needed merchandise and services and generates quite considerable tax revenue. The same can be said for other businesses, retail and whatever elsewhere.

And while the driving force for downtown improvement is economic, more than the economy is involved. From one point of view, downtown IS Oneonta; it’s where it all began. L & N Railroad Depot was built early on behind what became main street. Its construction is celebrated in the new historical marker just erected. The fledging village soon had a grocery store, dry goods store, hotel, and bank.

Revitalizing is sorely needed. It won’t happen without considerable creativity and even more cooperation among business people, town officials, and other citizens. It won’t happen at all if criticism and negativity prevail over originality, optimism, enthusiasm, and teamwork.