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Fredericksburg City Beat

This blog includes news about City Hall, city schools and other 22401 news.

Pamela Gould reports on City Hall. You can reach her at 540-735-1972 or pgould@freelancestar.com. Robyn Sidersky reports on city schools. You can reach her at 540-374-5413 or rsidersky@freelancestar.com.

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Downtown’s character(s)

The Fredtalkers have an interesting discussion going on about whether national retailers would be good or bad for downtown Fredericksburg. Their thread seems to be rooted in this story about the city’s new economic development director, Kevin Gullette.

The argument that “chain stores” would destroy what some feel is a quaint, unique atmosphere characterized by the independent shops downtown is nothing new (here‘s a reminder). Fredtalker Einstein puts it this way:

“The one thing that makes downtown special, and worth coming to visit for tourist, is that it is predominantly small, privately-owned business. The business owners live in the Burg and have a personal investment in our community. And the current city administration is actively looking to destroy it. This type of short-sighted, greedy outlook is what turned Georgetown, Annapolis, Old Towne and numerous other once charming unique downtowns into bland, boring, banal strip malls overtaken by a metastasizing franchise cancer.”

But not everyone sees Georgetown, Annapolis and Alexandria as evils to be shunned. Fellow talker oisin sees it differently:

“People need services. Store fronts……not consignment shops. Sure they might be fun to walk through but how much sales is generated?
Ever walk downtown on a Monday and want to eat? Every want to go to first Friday and wonder why every stinking store on Caroline Street is closed even though there are hundreds of people on the street?”

Former Mayor Bill Beck weighed in on the downtown debate this past Sunday, with a letter to the editor criticizing the new incentive zones the City Council approved because their eligibility threshold–a $500,000 investment or 25 jobs created–would eliminate small startup or independent businesses.

In fact, council members asked questions similar to Beck’s before they voted on the incentives. Gullette said these incentives aren’t intended as a way to incubate startups, but they’re a way to reel in what he calls “catalyst” businesses that have a track record of drawing people from a wide area and creating an environment in which other–and perhaps smaller–businesses can thrive.

Permalink: http://news.fredericksburg.com/citybeat/2007/07/31/downtowns-characters/

  • paradigms

    You mean like with Robo-Chalk cruising the streets? Maybe it should be re-named Robo-Chalke…makes it a tad more quaint I think.

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