Whose responsibility is it to promote and energize downtown Anderson? The city? The merchants? The residents?
The answers: Yes. Yes. And yes.
An article last Sunday in The Herald Bulletin (visit theheraldbulletin.com and search for “downtown”) assessed the current state of downtown initiatives. Simply put, not much is going on.
That’s a shame, because the downtown has much to offer and could be developed to become even more attractive to shoppers, entertainment seekers, potential residents and others.
The problem springs partially from the city’s decision not to provide funding for Anderson Indiana Main Street (AIMS), the merchant group formed specifically to promote the downtown and bring people there for events.
When Mayor Kevin Smith was re-elected (after a term out of office) and took over the city’s reins in 2012, city officials declined to continue a commitment of $10,000 to AIMS. Also, Lori Sylvester, who works for the city, was asked not to do AIMS work on city time.
The city’s determination to have employees spend their time on the taxpayers’ dime and actually do the work they were hired to do is commendable.
The city’s decision to no longer provide funding to AIMS is more difficult to interpret. Perhaps it is a sign that the administration lost confidence in the ability of AIMS to represent and promote the downtown. Indeed, AIMS has been largely inactive in recent months, and an unseemly feud simmers among merchants.
The Smith administration has been active, on a few fronts, in pumping up activity downtown. Last December’s Christmas parade and the coming resurrection of the July 4 parade are examples of those efforts.
But the city and downtown merchants must work closely together to conceive and execute a concerted and strategic plan to bring more people downtown by extolling shopping and dining options, as well as entertainment, and by expanding downtown activities.