Opinion

I have my own guidelines for Bay Street

There probably are almost as many opinions about how to change the face of Bay Street in Port Orchard as there are people who have considered the idea.

Opinions may even outnumber the dollars available to make any significant change, since cost-effective changes capable of preventing the decline and stagnation of the old downtown area would have surely been done by the property owners already.

Now that government funds are available to pay a consulting firm to consider the problem, there will be motion if not progress. So much motion, you probably ought to get your suggestions into the box soon, or they may get lost in the rush.

Some things are so obvious that they go without saying, but that never stopped me before and won’t now.

We need something for young people to do. It has to be fun and maybe even thrilling. If not free, it must be very cheap.

And, the facility has to be indestructible.

For teenagers, some part of the new Bay Street must make the boys seem especially admirable and desirable to the girls. Then the only remaining difficult part will be getting girls to go there and admire the boys.

I never did figure out that part of adolescence, so I leave it to those of you who solved the puzzle to suggest how to meet this societal need.

Next, Bay Street must have something that attracts young adults. It doesn’t have to be cheap, but it must be fun.

The young men who go there must be transformed by merely traveling to that place into irresistible paragons of manhood when viewed by young women. And, you guessed it: Someone has to figure out how to get the women to go there and admire the men.

And, of course, there has to be at least one tourist attraction.

There is just something about having tourists wandering around that gives life to a place. Besides, they always spend money.

Having never been drawn to tourist attractions in any area where I’ve actually lived, I cannot tell you what might cause people to come here.

Maybe the consultants can figure out whether there is anything that exists or could be built in Port Orchard that would attract tourists with money to burn.

Then there’s the rest of us. We need businesses on Bay Street that offer things that are interesting or useful.

And, we need a place to park once the town is bustling with activity again. Commuter parking next to the passenger-only ferry landing is nice, but there probably ought to be a plan to relocate the commuters’ cars to make parking available for people with business or shopping to do on Bay Street.

Deciding what the new businesses will be should ordinarily be left to the entrepreneurs whose own money is at risk in the event of failure.

But we don’t seem to have a surplus of entrepreneurs clamoring for the chance to risk their life’s savings in an effort to lure people away from businesses that are located in relatively new facilities in readily accessible areas with lots of free parking.

All kidding aside, that’s really the crux of the matter. Port Orchard's Bay Street was once a commercial and retail center, but lacks the physical attributes needed to compete successfully with newer centers.

When there were few good roads, there was the “Mosquito Fleet” of small ferries, and then Bay Street made economic sense as a general retail and commercial area.

The population was small, so a town was viable even with only one main street running its length and a steep hill standing in the way of significant commercial expansion farther from the water.

If there is any general plan that could reshape Bay Street and increase ordinary economic activity, perhaps the consultants can come up with it; but I suspect that there is no such thing.

It seems far more likely that sustainable growth will come one or two businesses at a time, not as a result of a collective plan. The best that a plan can do is to give entrepreneurs reason to believe that the risk of failure is not too high.

When one plan is superimposed on the ef-forts of individual entrepreneurs, it often fits only a few of them well.

For example, instead of allowing the possibility of a few attractive storefronts on Bay Street, the last common plan resulted in sheltering the sidewalks from the rain by hiding the facades of the buildings.

Personal tastes vary, of course, but that thing over the sidewalks on Bay Street is as unattractive as anything I've seen done to a small town.

Whatever comes out of the consulting firm’s efforts, one thing isn’t negotiable: Both my favorite barber shop and candy shop must still be standing and in operation after the dust settles.

Robert Meadows is a Port Orchard resident.

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