Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Is the Streetcar the only hope for Downtown Bountiful?

The Portland Streetcar in front of Powell's Books.Image via Wikipedia

Recently I had the opportunity to take a walking tour of the downtown Bountiful area. As many of you know the Downtown Bountiful Business Association is opposing the proposal to bring the streetcar through the area. However, after looking at the current status of the downtown area, the association should be supporting this proposal as it may be the best hope of downtown bountiful surviving in the long term.

The first problem I see with downtown Bountiful is there is not much to attract people to the area. The only restaurant in the immediate area has closed so you have to walk to the extreme end of the downtown area to find a place to eat. In addition a shopping area needs a large variety of stores to keep the area vibrant. However, that is sourly lacking in the downtown Bountiful area.

Of course the city of Bountiful is not helping the downtown area. They used government money to put in a Costco obviously like many city councils lusting after the sales tax dollars. Sadly what city councils turn a blind eye to is that healthy small business bring in more sales tax dollars per square foot than a big box retailer.

While I am sure the city council sold the concept that Costco would bring in additional shoppers to the area, the truth is a Costco and stores like it do nothing for the immediate area businesses. A Costco is a destination store so that people go into the store, shop at it and then head home so they bring no money to the surrounding area.

So is the streetcar the magic that will save downtown Bountiful?

The answer to that question is no. However, what the streetcar does is bring new people into the area that would not otherwise travel to downtown Bountiful. It will create new business opportunities for those that take advantage of them.

To bring true success with the streetcar would probably take something that residents of the area would not be willing to do and that is to increase density and bring some infill development into the sea of parking lots that presently litters the area.

While downtown Bountiful has lasted longer than many downtown areas, its life its slowly being sucked away between their own city council and the Centerville city council slowly subsidizing their business away.
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Anonymous said...

I agree with much of your analysis. The Costco complex is actually located in West Bountiful city, and they lured it there with their incentives. Bountiful, on the other hand, is more focused using RDA money to build a gym that completes directly with the South Davis Recreation Center it subsidizes, or building a history museum in a new building while much of the historic downtown, as you note, rots.
As a South Davis resident, I think the Main Street streetcar is absolutely the right thing to do, if only to restore (roughly) the route of the Bamberger streetcar which ran through the county before the auto companies drove it out of business.

John Dornoff said...

Thanks for the correction. The articles I saw always mention that it was Bountiful not West Bountiful concerning the Costco. Explains even better why it was done.

Anonymous said...

With regard to Costco, I believe the development was a joint development between West Bountiful and Bountiful and the cities have a shared revenue agreement.

I also agree that running a trolley down main street will create a more vibrant downtown for Bountiful. Being a life-long resident of Bountiful and having loved this city for over 50 years, it broke my heart to see the downtown establishments push back against this idea. The city leaders and planners for both Bountiful and Centerville, having been educated on the usefulness of transit oriented development eagerly seek this alignment. Maybe they know something the short sited business owners don't know.

Just my two cents.