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Business group needs to push development
The decision by a number of Bay Street business owners to resurrect the Bay Street Merchants Association presumably bodes well for the future of downtown Port Orchard.
As has been well-chronicled in recent weeks, a number of exciting projects are on the drawing board for the citys stagnant commercial core, and it follows that a motivated, well-organized association of those whose livelihoods depend on having a vibrant Bay Street could play a huge role in making sure the good things happen.
Depending on which faction within the group ultimately asserts control, its also possible the new Bay Street Merchants Association could be a force for maintaining downtowns deteriorating status quo.
To that end, its hard to get a read on the intentions of the fledgling groups newly appointed representative Don Atkinson.
ÂIf any of the proposed downtown developments reach fruition Â and I believe they will, Atkinston said last week, it might be great for the city overall, but very disruptive for downtown merchants.Â
In the short term, perhaps, but hopefully Atkinson isnt suggesting that Bay Streets merchants and the residents of the community dont have the same goals and desires.
Its clearly in the best interests of both to encourage investment and quality development downtown, eventually resulting in a destination shopping experience for customers and clients from throughout the region.
Unfortunately, improvements on that scale come at a cost, and its unlikely the entire character of Port Orchard can be changed without someone or someones business being hurt or left out of the process.
Were hopeful the new merchants association will recognize this fact and take a long-term view. Rather than trying to preserve every single existing downtown business by avoiding any and all disruptions, the goal of the association should be to do whats best for the majority of current and future members.
In short, the new group can be either a catalyst for change or an obstacle in the road Port Orchard must take to secure its future.
Will that mean some struggling businesses that might otherwise have limped along a little longer might not survive the transformation?
Quite possibly. But sometimes a few branches need to be pruned in order to save the larger tree.
If that sounds insensitive, compare it to the alternative standing in the way of progress for the entire downtown business community, and by extension all of Port Orchard, in order to prolong the agony of a handful of businesses that very possibly wouldnt have made it anyhow.
If youve spent any time at all around Port Orchard, you know Bay Street has been a revolving door for years, with businesses opening with the best of intentions one day and closing the next. To be sure, some were undercapitalized, unprepared or simply had a bad idea to begin with, but the dramatic increase in foot traffic promised by a major overhaul of the downtown landscape certainly wouldnt have hurt.
The question at this point is whether Bay Street and its current crop of business leaders are finally going to let something be done about it or whether theyre going to consign another generation to a hit-or-miss future.
Bay Street stands at a fork in the road. One way leads to a glittering tomorrow, while the other leads down a dead-end street.
Heres hoping the merchants choose the right path.