Sunday, September 22, 2013

Economic Development Report

My unscientific analysis of downtown Plainfield businesses, with no data whatsoever, is now complete.  The number one business is the sale of alcoholic beverages (no Rebecca, not mattresses).  Aside from its ability to stimulate anti-social behavior, alcohol is "probably the most social drug we humans have" (Michael Pollan).  Its importance in the revitalization of downtown Plainfield should not be underestimated.   It's part of my vision for downtown Plainfield as a place where all are welcome to earn a living, shop and have fun. All as in people of many ethnic backgrounds and socio-economic groups.

Plainfield has many liquor licenses and some bar licenses are used downtown to cater to a Latino clientele.  Notable among the downtown liquor establishments are two with frequent police calls for help - La Bamba and Pueblo Vieijo.  Its safe to say they are doing their part to dissuade new customers from using our downtown.  There is also Los Faroaenes and Chez Maree, both recently attracting attention as sponsors of street festivals.  These festivals are attracting new customers including families with young children (very desirable) but it is doubtful they are using our downtown as much as just being festival goers.

I've mentioned "new customers",  and "visions" for downtown and its time we have a healthy discussion about it.  As downtown becomes more and more a Latino gathering place, is there room for new customers who are not Latino?  Can we make downtown a place where parents feel more comfortable bringing or sending their children?  Is there a place for more shops that offer more than low end merchandise and services?

I fervently hope the answer to these questions is yes.  But a vision has to be backed by people with energy and resources.  One who fits this description is Plainfield's designated downtown redeveloper, the owner of Landmark.  He needs a liquor license.  Landmark's vision of downtown Plainfield is for apartment living, enhanced by restaurants, artisanal coffee shops and bakeries, and a healthy compliment of the arts.

In order to attract new customers to downtown, some restaurants will need to sell alcoholic beverages.  Alcoholic beverages = good business plan = enough profit to succeed = people having fun = attracting new customers.  Landmarks customers are retiring baby boomers and young people who enjoy the amenities of city living.  Sounds like diversity to me.

Back to my analysis of Plainfield's downtown.  My formula for success is:

1. support Landmark in any way possible to obtain a liquor license for a restaurant,
2. use the offices of city hall to bring together downtown stakeholders to create a shared vision, and convince merchants that diversity can be their ally, not a threat,
3. hire economic development professionals to enable city hall to do its part, in partnership with our merchants and turn would be investors into will be investors,
4. make downtown more friendly to shoppers and businesses through better code enforcement, ABC (Alcoholic Beverage Control) enforcement and more visible public safety measures (security cameras, police walking/cycling/segway patrols).

A central part of revitalizing Plainfield is converting the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages from a detriment to an asset.  Not a easy goal but one worth the time and effort it will take to achieve.

1 comment:

Deborah Dowe said...

Does anyone have the standing to challenge changes to the auction process of a Plainfield liquor license that was widely expected to go to the developer?

Living near a liquor store in Chicago gives makes you 500 more likely to be shot.

I wonder how much ability there is to influence the types of establishments with liquor licenses.