I am writing to express some concerns regarding the redevelopment proposal that Mr. Nate Green from the Montrose Group from Columbus presented to Greenville City Council at a work session on June 27, 2017. The front page article that appeared in the June 29th issue of The Daily Advocate is what raises these concerns. I spoke by phone with Mr. Curt Garrison and shared my opinions regarding this issue. My intention is to raise awareness to potential challenges this poses for Greenville and the downtown businesses.
First let me state, I understand that everyone needs money and the city is no different. It jumps out to me that this is an attempted money grab by the city on the backs of the downtown businesses, which already have an uphill climb to survive. The article states that the contract would be $20,000 for a four or five month period. Beyond the ambiguity in the time period of knowing what it would be buying is the fact that the money would be going right out of the community to a firm in Columbus instead of to a local business who employs local people and contributes to the local tax base. I think that seems rather hypocritical when the downtown groups have encouraged (begged) people to shop local.
It seems to me that the city should put its money right here if it expects local citizens to put their money here. Downtown businesses have had to struggle with the parking challenges to draw business for as long as I can remember. Many of the buildings downtown are not handicap accessible to people who have mobility challenges. It is hard to get a wheelchair or walker into many of the buildings downtown and even impossible to use a chair or walker and get into some of the buildings downtown. If one is able to enter in their wheelchair or with their walker, navigating inside is very difficult because of the narrow walkways and aisles within. It’s hard. I don’t even try anymore to shop downtown with my son.
During our phone conversation, Mr. Garrison tried to tell me that the additional revenue from increased property taxes would go back to the property owner who made the investment. That is a possibility. It is very unlikely that it would work that way because the city would have the authority to determine where and how within that particular district the money is most needed. What if the city decides that a property owner “must make an investment” to make the building comply with the standard or code it has established or may decide to establish, then the owner either spends the money and in turn pays higher taxes or he/she stops paying taxes and allows the building to be foreclosed upon? Of course, the owner will no longer own that building but the building is still there. The city will have to do something if it is to maintain a standard look and feel for the downtown district. It will take money to repair and maintain that building. If a property owner makes a substantial investment, then he or she will ultimately pass it on to customers – some of whom are the owner’s tenant who will have to pass it on to patrons of the business occupying the owner’s leased space. Higher prices will be one more deterrent to shopping downtown. Businesses are struggling in this economy. How can we expect businesses to survive if we place additional burdens and potential mandates on them?
How can our community survive without the businesses already here remaining successful? As stated in the article, that additional money could be used to fund a non‐profit organization that will have paid staff to determine how to improve our downtown area. But if the city enters into this contract, won’t it have just spent considerable money with a firm in Columbus to learn how to improve the downtown district?
I think this might be a situation that the suggested money dangling out in front looks very tempting but there just might be a steep and slippery slope waiting after the city grabs it. As Mr. Garrison stated, “Once it’s established, it’s established.” Please give this strong consideration and make your voice heard before the city decides that downtown business owners must come along on the city’s attempt to get the money.