While downtowns across the nation will never be what they were in the era before suburban shopping centers, big box stores, and Internet merchandizing, some Main Streets have had successful turnarounds by leveraging the arts, culture, and history. One of the places that has won its fight to restore vitality is described in today’s Cecil Whig by columnist Ed Okonowicz.
In “A Tale of Two Downtowns” the paper says “the lines are long and the streets are crowded, especially on show nights” in Pittman, NJ, a vibrant place, where the arts are alive. This small NJ town drew on its unique history and cultural resources in its successful fight. In contrast, the paper said: “Anyone who has visited Elkton knows there’s not much in the county seat to attract tourists or locals. Attempts to create an artistic center are slow going, and many shop owners are hoping for an upturn in the economy. Of course, it didn’t help matters when county decision makers – the smartest folks in the room – relocated a significant portion of Elkton’s downtown workforce to the new administration building off Route 40.”
Okonowicz suggests, “If you get a chance, take a ride to Pitman when the Broadway Theater is offering a performance. . . . You’ll be amazed at how busy a little downtown can be.”
Someone Noticed is always pleased to see the daily paper report on such important matters. For nearly 15 years, Elkton has struggled with revitalization and about ten years ago an independent nonprofit headed by Commissioner Mary Jo Jablonski was created to spearhead the process. The Elkton Alliance, the private group, is largely financed by the municipality.
The Whig last explored the fight to save downtown in April of 2009, when it reported that shop owners, officials, and residents disagreed on the current condition of the old business district and they hadn’t agreed on the best way to bring more business downtown. “And they’re not sure what they want the town’s future to hold,” the Whig wrote as it described the challenges