Letter

New leaders to bring a new downtown agenda?

 

Dear Editor,

Downtown Rutland has been in the news recently concerning the metered parking situation and now the two departures at the Rutland Downtown Partnership. As a long time retail manager, most recently spending 25 years as the Retail Director at Okemo, I tend to look at things as an astute retailer would look. So, let’s look at the downtown area bordered by West St., Merchants Row, Strongs Ave., Washington and Wales streets as one big store.

Retailers always have a nice, sometimes exciting, display in their front window to draw passer by into their shop. Throughout the year there are hundreds if not thousands passing through the downtown. What do they see that would draw them into the one “big” store, the downtown? A bunch of buildings, some sculptures, a few murals and just a few people walking the streets. Not sure that’s a big enough incentive to have visitors find a parking spot and spend some time in the “big” store.

As many of you may remember from past commentaries I’ve been a huge proponent of closing down Center St. between Wales and Merchants Row. I’ve always pictured all the restaurants and cafes extended well into the street. A couple food trucks parked at the Merchants Row end to attract people driving by. Some business sponsored picnic tables with colorful umbrellas, some park benches and a small area for a soloist or duo to perform for tips. THAT would attract people to spend some time in the “big” store.

Parking is another story.

I have tried and tried to find a spot on Merchants between West and Center Streets somewhere around 10 a.m. to run into a shop there to get my favorite doughnuts. There is rarely a spot, very rarely. As there is almost no one walking the sidewalks it’s hard for me not to believe many of the spots are downtown workers? I believe that’s been a discussion in the past.

Yes, I’m a senior citizen. I would park over on Center Street but then I would have to fool around with the new parking system. What a pain when I just need to run around the corner for a doughnut. Give me a quarter slot anytime. I don’t know how the logistics would work but would love to see free parking around the “big” store from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day, same with the parking deck. Good stores need to make it easy for people to stop and shop, even the “big” store.

Here’s hoping that the city’s public servants and those running the downtown finally make that big jump and close Center Street at least from Memorial Day weekend throughout foliage season. I think it’s finally time to give it a try.

Larry Abelman,

Shrewsbury

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