Archive for November 16th, 2008

downtown revisited

Petula Clark never had it so good.

Well, when I think back to the lyrics of her song “Downtown”, she did.

“The lights are much brighter there
You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares
So go DOWNTOWN, things’ll be great when you’re
DOWNTOWN – no finer place, for sure
DOWNTOWN – everything’s waiting for you!”

I’ll be humming that for the rest of the night.

From what I have heard of Amsterdam’s past, our downtown offered much of the experiences described in these lyrics, dating back to times when women dragged their skirts along the streets up to the psychedelic miniskirts and fishnets of the 60’s. I’m sorry not to have know Holzheimer & Shaw or Mortans when shopping was oh-so-civilized and elevator music was standard fare. I imagine it was quite elegant and for some reason, I can almost smell my grandmother in knit, gloves and a hat.

So, I’m tired of imagining. In fact, a whole group of us are tired of imagining and are trying to do something about it.

The beauty in wearing the hat I wear, (which is not a magician’s turban – though I’ve been known to wave my hands in the air when I talk as I try to conjure an image for my audience – boy, do I digress) is that I have called my fellow league of the frustrated together and we have started a Downtown Development Committee to tackle our tattered Main Street.

I introduce you to our mission –

The purpose of the City of Amsterdam’s downtown development effort is to:

• revitalize and preserve the historic character of the downtown
and enhance the City’s quality of life.
• recommend changes to legislation and zoning that will inspire and enhance
multi-purpose usage of existing buildings (commercial, professional, residential).
• recommend changes to vehicular & pedestrian traffic patterns, as well as parking.
• increase the diversity of goods and services available to residents and visitors.
Identify and entice investors to open up desirable businesses downtown.
• make recommendations that will improve access to governmental information
needed or required by business owners, investors and developers
(tax assessments, maps, codes, permitting, etc.)
• identify financial resources (grants, loans, incentives, etc.)
that will encourage investment in this area.
• maintain and increase property and sales tax revenues.
• create jobs for City residents.
• recognize the contributions that small businesses make to the City.

No short order, may I say, but we’ve made great progress. We’ve contacted most of the property owners in the concentrated area we are starting in (west of the mall), held a community forum to field concerns and suggestions from these owners, developed an assessment form for each building and have gone for a NYS Small Cities grant to help with rehabilitation of buildings. We have several community groups working on a clean up and decorating campaign for empty storefronts and have talked with the Department of Transportation to assist us in developing a new traffic plan. We are going to be going for more funding and will be putting together a stepped marketing initiative involving targeted print advertising and direct mail.

If only I could wave a wand. I am the most impatient of all participants, but am encouraged by the progress we’ve made so far.

I like to think my good friend Jan West is guiding from heaven, because this meant so much to her and I’ve got to believe that Texan willpower is enhanced when she gets to direct on behalf of the almighty. Which makes me, and I know her, smile. Hell, it makes her laugh that deep, beautiful, full laugh of hers.

Ah well, angels, devils, wands or plain tenacity are going to payoff. As always, it’s only a matter of time and slamming this hard head against the wall repeatedly until it finally


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