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The Scoop - Ways to improve our downtown
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If we could wave a magic wand and pull the perfect downtown community out of a hat, what would it look like?

The question comes to mind as more and more real estate professionals are telling me out-of-state residents are looking to relocate into Warren County. And one of the top reasons continues to be our sparkling downtown.

It's an attractive area, to be sure, which has taken great strides from the mid-1990s when plywood covered storefronts and an eyesore called The Hole was in the middle of Court Square.

We definitely have several key pieces in place for a fabulous downtown. This includes restaurants such as Topz, Collins River BBQ, Kimmi's Tea Room, Juicy's, and Cumberland Biscuit Company.

We also have a first-rate entertainment venue in the Park Theater. This is for when we eventually return to the days of being able to enjoy live shows.

There's also a nice sampling of retail stores which sell everything from antiques to boutique clothing. Downtown features banks, which retail analysts always say are key in attracting traffic, hair stylists, a dance studio, art studio, jiu-jitsu academy, and our community library.

What would make our downtown even better? I think there's definitely a need for more evening offerings on the weekend. If we want to attract young professionals to locate here, not just retirees, our downtown needs more to do on Saturday night, say at 10 p.m. 

We don't need to try to imitate Nashville with its row of honky tonks, but we could use at least one bar/ restaurant/ entertainment spot which stays open past 9 p.m. Perhaps Begonias, a pizza parlor coming to the old Fraley's building, will help to fill that void.

Downtown living is fast becoming a hip thing and more residential areas could be on the way. I know Ken Roberts has long talked about building second-floor condos at the old Fraley's spot so perhaps that will be on the radar.

Jimmy Zavogiannis is trying to sell the old Warren County Furniture building and he says it would be the perfect spot for downtown living.

It would be a huge benefit if the Blue Building was leveled and nice apartments constructed there.

As for what city government could do, The Hole certainly looks much better now that it's The Lot, but that's still under-used property. I don't think a small, grassy lawn is attracting anyone downtown.

A water feature, a stage, and even an overlook area have been discussed for The Lot. Perhaps when the city is saturated with more COVID money, there will be funds available to consider such a project. That's a great untapped location which should be considered for development, not left to mow.

In short, our downtown area has a certain level of luster, but there's never a time to sit back and say we're done. Continual work is needed to keep up with the trends and maintain our momentum.

Standard editor James Clark can be reached at 473-2191.