Crowded downtown a rare sight

Published 4:00 pm Monday, December 7, 2009

Thursday’s night Christmas parade was certainly a welcome site in the Camellia City. Mainly, because it brought people into downtown Greenville.

Let’s be frank folks: downtown Greenville, uptown Greenville, Commerce St., main street, “Gateway-to-Camden-and-Luverne”…whatever you want to refer to it as, is never going to revert back to the populated sidewalks, heavily-trafficked stores, and heart of the community, as it once was in the early and mid-20th century. A magical genie is not suddenly going to show up, wave his hands, and return downtown Greenville to the prosperity and thriving center of commerce that it was in yesteryear.

The interstate foreshadowed the death of many a downtown and the birth of an America where every city you visit, (to paraphrase author Tom Wolfe), seems cast from the mold as the one you just visited; the same fast food restaurants, the same hotels, the department stores, the same gas stations. It’s no one’s fault really: In the Cold War era, President Eisenhower saw that a nation needed a comprehensive transportation network, where soldiers and supplies could be moved as quick as possible in case of a national emergency. That was the primary purpose. Enabling the American consumer’s incessant need to travel was the other. Companies naturally gravitated towards the interstate because that was where the money was. People needed lodging, food, and gas. The days of packing a lunch for those long drives were over; Mickey D’s had your back.

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Greenville’s downtown, however, is not dead yet. But it’s going to take work, hard work on the part of our local officials and city leaders, to keep it going the way of the dinosaur. We’ve already had some new shops open up, thanks to the city’s incentive plan for businesses choosing to locate downtown, but it may not be until the next round of this country’s prosperity until we see that plan truly have an effect. Steps have been taken, but more steps have to be made. And it’s going to take an investment from the city, the business owners, and you, the citizen of Greenville.

Because we want a downtown Greenville where there’s more to do then just watch a parade.