During the recent Small Business Saturday following Thanksgiving, our Main Street in Port Washington was abuzz with activity or, to use the words of a neighbor, “hoppin.’” How can we sustain a high level of activity on Main Street year round?
If you believe the Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington, a successful Main Street is as easy as adding a few stories of apartments above the stores (except of course, our rows of individual stores would need to be razed and replaced with new three-story, block-sized buildings to fulfill that concept, but I digress). I guess their thought is that our new apartment dwellers would be captive, instant shoppers. If that were true then almost every commercial strip in Brooklyn and Queens would be hoppin.’
What makes a business corridor successful is more complex than turning over the keys to a developer and hoping the shiny, new, cookie-cutter buildings get filled with the right stores and people. The town needs to address the current ordinances and policies that make it difficult to start and keep a business on Main Street.
In parallel, we need to do the work of determining the right business mix for our town and location, and develop a business attraction and marketing strategy, before we start building new things. We might even find that our current structures are sufficient. Perhaps there is a case to be made for new, mixed-use buildings, but where is that analysis and is congested Main Street really the best place for these? Proponents of the Main Street proposal also keep forgetting that according to the Long Island Index, 5,500 of us already live within walking distance of Main Street, which is compact for Long Island.
Let’s not lose sight that Port Washington has two key tools for a vibrant Main Street, which other towns would envy: an intact, walkable, small-town structure and a relatively wealthy client base. We are missing: business friendly policies, ongoing dialogue with the current residents, and the right business mix. I disagree that a cookie-cutter downtown is the missing ingredient.
Please consider attending the public hearing on December 11 in Town Hall at 7:30 p.m.