Posted: Friday, September 30, 2016
By: Travis Weik
It’s going to take more than a couple new restaurants and some new paint to make Broad Street a destination location again. I think most people can agree on that.
It is up to us to foster the main drag and cultivate an area that is welcoming and attractive and safe and profitable and fun.
We’ve written about the butterfly effect that the revitalization of New Castle is having around Henry County. Smaller towns are forming Main Street groups and are focusing on local projects. Construction contractors are staying busy rebuilding historic places from the inside out. That means more money spent locally for materials and tools.
Those guys and gals are eating lunch and buying gas somewhere while they are on the job, right? All that money is going back into the local economy.
The true test will be how we, the good people of Raintree County, treat the new businesses after they open their doors. Will we head to the BBQ joint after work, or will we pick up another #6 value meal from the drive thru on the way home? Will we spend our date nights watching cars cruise Broad, or will we keep staring at traffic along McGalliard?
We have to actually go these New Castle restaurants if we want them to succeed. We have to support them and tell our friends about them and encourage our visiting relatives to eat there, too.
But that still won’t be enough to bring downtown back to its former glory. A city cannot survive on restaurants and coffee shops alone.
If a hard-working couple has gone through the hassle of coordinating their schedules for a night on the town, hunting down a baby sitter and dressing up for a date, they deserve more than just a meal and some drinks.
The Arts Park makes for a romantic stroll after dinner and the Castle is just two blocks away. But we need more options to make this a true place to visit.
Downtown needs spots for people to browse and shop after dinner.
New Castle already has department stores along South Memorial Drive. What Broad Street needs in order to stand out is some niche shops. A store that sells men’s accessories, such as suspenders and wallets, for example. The local dress shop could expand its inventory beyond prom and wedding formal wear.
I hope to see the Artistry Annex on 15th Street start having extended hours to capitalize on the increased foot traffic that the new projects should attract.
One of the vacant bank buildings could be converted into an indoor paintball or laser tag arena. A board game library on Broad Street would give people a place to hang out without leaving downtown.
Even having a vacuum cleaner sales and service shop on Broad or Race Street would help drive traffic downtown. The only other option for locals right now is to head to Walmart or up north to Muncie.
My point is that the city needs to give people a reason to stay downtown. Something that makes it different from the highway or other small towns that are fighting the same battle.
We need to support the downtown businesses if we want the city to actually grow. And the businesses need to work together to make sure customers want to stick around.
Off the top of my head, it would be great to see referral partnership between our resident Italian restaurant and movie theater, in which two adult movie tickets get you a free appetizer or you get free tickets with the purchase of an appetizer. Something simple like that to help drive the local economic engine.
A quick note about jobs: New Castle no longer has Chrysler, but we do have an industrial park that continues to add jobs year after year. And the New Castle Career Center keeps turning out grads who are certified to start out making more money than their teachers.
By promoting and bolstering the heart of New Castle, we can encourage those workers to spend that money locally. That money then supports jobs that are easier to walk to than heading down the hill to the restaurants and shops on Ind. 3.
If we don’t spend our time and money around these parts, it will be our fault when the jobs follow our dollars out of town.
Travis Weik is a reporter for The Courier-Times newspaper. He writes local stories about local people. The paper is supported through ads bought by local businesses and subscriptions paid for by local readers.