Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Downtown Experience

In the 1980s, members of a city agency charged with downtown revitalization envisioned a return to Plainfield's days as a shopping mecca with quality merchandise. Alas, no fine leather goods shops ever appeared and the logo of Louis Vuitton is nowhere to be seen. Business is good, but shopping is still decidedly low-end. Above, a display of party goods.

A Front Street newsstand that also sold cell phones and gifts has recently been replaced by a new 99-cent store.

Oversized earrings and chains are popular items.

Clothing tends to be urban street wear and shoe stores feature the same.

Oprah may tout shapewear, but must we see examples in the front window?
While many people enjoy shopping downtown, the range of goods drives some of us out of town. Another issue is tripled rents that have driven longtime merchants out of the central business district. The shift to stores with broader appeal has not taken place. Multiple cell phone stores and outlets for electronic goods dominate the downtown.
Some great entrepreneurial minds have studied how Plainfield's downtown can be revitalized. So far, the offerings are not even close to the glorious retail days of yore. Is what we have realistically the best we can do? Comments are welcome.
--Bernice Paglia

5 Comments:

Blogger olddoc said...

It is impossible to expect a Westfield type revival of down town Plainfield. The same bias and demographic changes that led to the demise of Muhlenberg has driven quality stores away from the city. The city and its people have contributed to the problem by not actively and efectivly creating a safe and pleasant atmosphere in the area.

8:51 AM  
Anonymous pat ballard fox said...

Especially when you are fighting crime and other image problems you need to find an anchor to begin to rebuild the retail sector. A few months ago I wrote several letters to the Courier about the lost opportunity the city suffered in attracting a first run movie theatre to the Strand. This type of magnet attracts a wide variety of people across all economic levels. This would help grab the attention of better retailers who might then be more inclined to look at Plainfield as an expansion site. Combine this with the existence of an active Special Improvement District and strategic marketing and recruitment and you have increased your chances. This is a building block process -- not one specific thing will turn the downtown, but it must be a blend of strategic steps. Unfortunately, many better retailers have already settled in towns (or malls) around Plainfield over the years and would not be inclined to "cannibalize" their existing operations, particuarly in a slow economy, but it is still worth the effort.

At this date the Strand Theatre is still vacant. I suggest the City reach out to a movie theatre operator and start allover to gain their interest. They should also be amendable to possible incentives to draw them to the downtown. It also goes without saying that the administration needs to drop the hammer on crime trends in the commercial areas, increase visible patrols and market the city as a Safe Community.

Pat Ballard Fox

11:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Entice the artist community....they always need 'affordable' rents and places to create.....and for some reason, they always have a positive effect on revitalization...,,,

5:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Get to low life's out of this city! First and foremost, we need to create a Plainfield that is appealing. That means people:

Put in a lawn
Mow your lawn
Pick up the garbage around your home
Get rid of tree stumps - better yet, take care of your trees
Most importantly, make the landlords adhere to these standards.


We have 50% of the Plainfield population who could care less - their landlords need to keep up property, and the city should enforce their codes.

We are Plainfield citizens would not have to pay increased taxes if the city enforced their codes - including adhering to property appearance.

8:56 AM  
Blogger Bob said...

Like Broad Street in Elizabeth. Big & noisy & busy but mostly crappy.

As for artists, a city can't entice them by saying in effect, "Move in here because we want you to attract the people & businesses that will make it too expensive for you to live here." No artist is fooled by that anymore.

Plainfield two big negatives: gang violence, & a city government perceived as politically unstable & therefore unable to agree upon a common vision for the city.

9:05 PM  

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