Retaining business should be part of recipe for downtown revitalization

August 27, 2013

The revitalization of Main Street has been an agonizingly slow process for those who wish to see it come to fruition — which should be anyone who ever needs to frequent Hazard. Last week, the Hazard Main Street Economic Development Committee met at City Hall to further this discussion, which has been ongoing for more than half a decade.

At the meeting, memories surfaced of Main Street being the place to hang out less than 20 years ago for kids in the surrounding counties after school and on weekends, invigorating the fight to breathe life back into downtown. A consultant who has helped with numerous other revitalization projects in other cities, Robert Donnan, was brought in to help move the process along.

Though the committee has not even taken its shoes off to be able to get its feet wet at this point, many great ideas for projects were thrown around, including painting murals on the exposed sides of buildings, rehabilitating the free parking garage so it can be used by more than just graffiti artists, and, of course, the art and music center planned to be put in the former JIL office building in the near future.

Exciting as these plans may sound, there are some things the committee needs to keep in mind when they envision the future of Main Street.

During discussions, the topic of a downtown tattoo parlor was brought up. It became very obvious, very quickly that many prominent members of the committee were not going to lose sleep over its inevitable move from Main Street.

After this discussion it was clear why the committee continuously acknowledged the fact that input from the current generation was desperately needed in the process of rehabilitating Main Street.

The year is 2013, not 1963. This is not Pleasantville. Tobey Maguire is not walking down the street of an idyllic black and white town where every store and establishment is sweet and “wholesome.”

Our citizens live in a time where things like funky, artsy coffee shops and eclectic “antique” stores are what most people are looking for when they are trying to find something to do after finishing paying their bills. Some businesses that might not seem attractive to a child of the ‘60s or ‘70s are exactly what the current generation is looking for.

Though it may seem unappealing to some, having a tattoo parlor on Main Street is pretty much the norm for any city, revitalized or not. Having one does not make the city look any less appealing to someone considering Hazard as their new home, for their business or their family.

Instead of scoffing at a tattoo parlor and rejoicing in its move from Main Street, there should be discussion of how to keep that business on a street where turnover for new businesses is a pretty good bet to make.

If local leaders want to produce a more appealing Main Street, they should keep in mind exactly who they are trying to make interested in the area. While those children of the ‘60s and ‘70s are obviously still a huge part of Hazard, those of the ‘80s and ‘90s are the ones bypassing Main Street to get to the things they are interested in, like coffee shops, book stores, and tattoo parlors.

— The Hazard Herald