To The Daily Sun,
This year the city completed a $4.3 million project at the Weirs, which has enhanced its natural beauty and will result in positive returns.
The city this year also committed to an additional $850,000 a year in its budget for five years for raises for the school teachers. This action is being touted as necessary to attract more middle class people to our city. When they get here, what and where will they spend their money.
It is time the city finally moves forward to promote and develop our downtown.
When I first came to the council 12 years ago, my hope was to see downtown come alive and flourish. In the past I have noted that while we get the tourists here, the majority of their dollars are not spent here. We need a major first class hotel offering patrons everything they want — swimming pools, tennis courts, game rooms, exercise rooms. We need tourists to stay here as the major part of their spending is in the night and overnight. They spend money on dinner and then entertainment or fun things to do for the whole family or for couples.
Downtown must offer them these opportunities. Hopefully, the Colonial will be a major draw for some of these visitors, but other venues must be available for the other segments. These same venues also serve the needs of the local market and the older generation, who want a place they can walk to and shop and enjoy their surroundings along with concerts, art, and the library and other activities all age groups can enjoy.
Unique shops and restaurants downtown should be open all evenings during the summer and winter tourist seasons and possibly year round. If you are downtown going to the Colonial or other venues, you want places to eat or shop.
Downtown is situated in a truly beautiful area and we should take advantage of the views that surround our downtown. Rotary Park, the river on both sides of the Main Street make it a great place to just go for a walk on the Riverwalk or WOW Trail and will bring you into the heart of the city. There are many people now living in the heart of downtown and many moved there for the convenience to downtown and to be able to walk the neighborhood. We must give them something to walk to and where they can shop.
Since 2007, following an inspiring presentation by Roger Brooks, I have advocated bringing Mr. Brooks, a renowned expert on downtown development to the city for one of his programs. Mr. Brooks points out in his books and speeches, that the “bottom line” is to give people “something to do.” He notes rightly that the boating, hiking, skiing etc. are lures, but you also need ancillary diversions, especially in the evening, when a visitor spends the lion’s share of his money.
This message is not new. Everyone gets it. What is lacking, is a central cohesive force working toward the same goal. Private and public entities working together. We have agencies, committees, civic groups, all have worked on attracting more business to the area, but somehow after years of different initiatives, nothing has jump-started the engine.
In 2012 I again tried to bring Roger Brooks here with a presentation before the City Council which was well received, but they felt it should be financed through the Chamber of Commerce or BCEDC. Mayor Mike Seymour suggested meeting with the Chamber and BCEDC to consider this, but that meeting never developed.
At some of the meetings and charrettes there were some great ideas but I think they were viewing it from a present-day-type population. We should be looking down the road. The younger people today are not like the present day adults. As one survey showed, there is no music or place for them. They are looking for fun and the parents of young people who come here on vacation go to places where their kids have the fun and food they like. We need something futuristic or a place all ages can go and find something. A fun place to eat, drink, and play. There is a place for all generations here.
So, can we not come to a consensus on the idea that tourism is our main industry and we must make it our focus and bring those tourist dollars to the downtown.
This will result in new businesses downtown, more jobs, and a happy public.
Roger Brooks has for 35 years with his team of creative minds helped communities and resorts create, enhance, revitalize and market gathering places full of life, energy, and economic success. He has spent 20 years working with more than 1,500 communities. He has many different programs, some run a day, some several days. He also stays involved if needed, and he has at times brought in developers that have invested in these cities.
Laconia has a Downtown TIF fund which at this time has over $1-million available. Surely, we can invest some of it to revitalize our downtown and our city. The investment by the city to jump start the revitalization is definitely better than doing nothing.
Ward 4 City Councilor
- Written by Edward Engler
- Category: Letters
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