Have Downtown Shopping Areas Died?

The other day there was an article in the local paper regarding one of our neighboring villages that included ‘candidate’s opinions’ on what should be done with their downtown area. This is a village that finally pulled the plug on a developers grand plans who, even with extensions, couldn’t come up with the necessary financing. The candidates all had their own ideas of what should be done with the downtown that borders their lake, but one candidates view really got me to thinking. His name is Mark Ernst, a business consultant, who has a totally different view on “downtown“. Here, in a nutshell, is what Ernst reportedly said: Downtown’s died in the 1990’s and trying to turn the area into a destination shopping district filled with boutique stores would be a flawed move. People would rather go where they can purchase less expensive goods, such as at big box stores. Ernst feels the village should encourage development plans that includes restaurants, professional offices, condominiums, and apartments. The restaurants would benefit from the office workers.

Are downtown shopping districts dead?

As I read and reread his comment I began to think about our District 116 and the number of vacant strips that are in this area. When was the last time you strolled along a sidewalk ‘window shopping’ like you might do in Lake Geneva or Galena? One of the biggest obstacles to a ‘destination‘ shopping area would be the amount of parking required. In Galena, for example, they mark your tire while your car is parked so that you can’t tie up the parking spot for more than two hours without getting a ticket. In Lake Geneva it can be almost impossible to find a convenient parking space. Maybe Mr. Ernst has hit on something many have not thought about in their rush to develop ‘downtowns’. Are they a dying breed or have they already died?

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