Madison Street Plaza Project has tons of potential

Jesse Lindsey

Madison Street Plaza project has tons of potential

Not everyone is as fond as I am of new development in a community. Many argue that things are just fine the way they are and change is a bad, bad word. Other’s like to get tied up with the details, incentives offered by government and often times don’t understand the process and logic or simply choose to not understand, while leaning only on their biases. Lastly, I’ve seen in many communities where whomever is putting a said project on the road to completion, their character and other factors come into play into why that project is a bad idea.

Despite those common reasons to not support the blooming partnership between the City of Decatur and Biggs Property Management, the Madison Street Plaza Project has tons of potential. In fact, I thought to myself the very first time I drove downtown, passing along 2nd Street that there were opportunities not yet capitalized on. Our older buildings already have numerous apartments on their upper levels, but some are vacant and a few could benefit by doing a remodel or conversion into a more current type of residence. Lofts in my mind equal an obvious opportunity.

I lived in a community in Suffolk, Virginia a few years back and they did such a great job of revitalizing their downtown. By the efforts put forth in tearing down dilapidated buildings and renovating those buildings that were in need of some tender loving care, doors began to open for a number of new businesses and new residents alike. The revitalized look and feel of downtown was driven by converting those spaces into a residential/commercial destination. Most of the improved buildings included loft living on upper levels and retail space on the ground level. This drew more traffic than ever to downtown. As a result, some of the new businesses choosing to relocate to downtown included locally flavored restaurants, coffee shops, artist galleries and a number of small retail specialty shops who found their very own niche in the heart of downtown.

At first, many residents were up in arms over tearing down buildings that had historical significance despite the fact most were in a condition of disrepair. The aforementioned causes for concern ran rampant in the City of Suffolk before and during the revitalization efforts.

The good news is that once progress was at the point where the community could begin to witness and experience the “new” downtown, they were quick to embrace the changes. And not only were the revitalization projects beginning to earn due praise for the new and improved culture, the community also welcomed the new tax revenues that followed wth open arms.

The fact that the Decatur City Council is on board and have agreed to contract engineering services to get the ball rolling is a great sign and commitment for the project to become a reality. Sure, there remain a few obstacles to overcome still, but everything seems like it’s on the right track.

The Madison Street Plaza project is going to do much more than bring some new tenants to the area. By tearing the Shafer building down, the city will convert a block between 1st and 2nd street into an events center that would play host to all of the downtown events. This could also create more opportunities for new events. The revitalization of this block might also be a catalyst for increased attendance for the myriad of events already scheduled for the year.

So before folks begin to bellyache on the proposed project, it might make more sense to give the project and parties involved a fair shake at making our downtown a better place to live, work and play.