Many Small Towns Across America Are Attempting to Revitalize Blighted Or Run Down Areas. Is This A Worthwhile Endeavor, A Waste Of Money, Or Just A Reluctance To Let Go Of The Past?

Myrtle Beach, SC, Orlando, FL October 24, 2015

Gastonia, NC Correspondent-
Here in my little corner of the world in North Carolina, the near-total collapse of the textile industry in the U.S. left dozens of small towns with gutted downtowns and huge brick buildings that used to be mills sitting idle and drawing dust and transients.

Especially given the cost of new construction, revitalizing these old businesses makes good financial sense, provided they haven’t decayed to the point that the wrecking ball is the only viable option.

All over the country, and indeed the world, populations are flocking from the suburbs back into urban areas.  With gas being relatively cheap right now, that migration has slowed a bit, but rest assured it will speed up again the next time OPEC sneezes.

There’s no reason whatsoever why small- to medium-sized towns can’t follow the same course, although what’s been just as successful in many spots around here is turning the downtown areas into shopping, dining and nightlife areas.  In essence, it’s a town acknowledging its function as a bedroom community to the nearest big city and deciding to make sure that its residents come home to keep their money local.

That’s an imperfect solution, as the towns end up with economies that largely only operate after 5 p.m. and on weekends, but it surely beats empty storefronts.

Even more promising is getting people to live, not just shop, downtown.  Those old mills?  One of them here in my little town just reopened as a “living space” with apartments, fitness club and even a couple of bistro-type restaurants.  Once people start living downtown, the thinking goes, they’ll want to start businesses close to home so they can work near where they live.

To close on a somewhat fuzzier note:  Spending money to keep small towns alive is part of what makes us America.  Our small towns give us our identity, shape our society and give our kids a place to grow up where they can have something close to an old-fashioned childhood.  As a father, that’s good enough reason for me.  

Sheffield, Jamaica Correspondent-There’s always the opportunity to improve our society. With that said, revitalizing run down areas is not a waste of hard earned money or a reluctance to bid the past farewell, but a strong push to create stability and make further economic advancements. Our past is important. It’s definitely a part of what we are as a society today. If we allow even a minute aspect of it to die, we could lose sight of where we are coming from, and inevitably, where we are going.

Instead of casting a blind eye to these run down areas in our small towns, let’s come together as a people to “make it like it was” or even better. Think about how many opportunities this could afford people. They are endless… Instead of allowing a part of who we are to die, it’s in the people’s interest to carry on history and even help our young ones to appreciate what these small areas were before being blighted. If those small areas die, what society will our children grow up to know? It’s a worthwhile effort to give life to these small areas, as they could be big investments. In time, we might have people streaming to these communities.

 Prescott Valley, AZ Correspondent-Attempting to revitalize blighted and run down areas of a small town is a worthwhile endeavor for a number of reasons.  Foremost, rejuvenation of a blighted area creates a sense of accomplishment to a community on the verge of financial ruin and invigorates spirit within the community.  Secondly, revitalization puts residents in run down communities to work, particularly for those most affected by economic downturns that are generally occurring in such areas.  Thirdly, it stimulates investment from within and attracts investors from outside the community as well, all of which stimulates active involvement in a community.  Fourthly, it restores confidence and a feeling of worth to those struggling in an area that has been neglected, abandoned and written off as irrecoverable.  Finally, small towns and their inhabitants are the backbone and moral fiber of a country, state, and local community and bring to mind how small numbers of determined individuals with entrepreneurial spirits and American know-how can come together and make a once impossible community-based project a reality.

Such projects are not a waste of time or money unless reinvestment funds for revitalization are coming from a source or source administrators that are simply attempting to capitalize on a bad situation and have no intention of completing the rebuilding or revitalization within a community.  When revitalization funds are being disbursed to local officials, contractors, and others, they must be closely monitored to prevent those in charge from absconding with funds and leaving the community in an even worse state. A clear structure should always be in place for any kind of funding and distribution of monies whether through local, state or federal sources.

Deciding whether to leave the past behind concerning a blighted or run down area becomes an issue within the community itself.  If the community is unwilling to participate in and become part of a reinvestment and revitalization project, and there are unqualified, apathetic or insufficient leaders or residents in tune with the welfare and betterment issues of such a community, then perhaps relinquishing revitalization ideas may be the only option.  Without educating a community about revitalization, along with the amount of work involved with such undertakings, members of such a community will not be aware of what can be done to remedy blighted and run down areas.  The right organization, concepts, procedures, strategies, and interaction with residents should be in place for revitalization plans to succeed.  Abandoning an area that requires rejuvenation needs to be carefully studied and assessed before writing off any revitalization plan.

Revitalizing areas of a small town, whether it is a downtown business, a neighborhood of houses and other dwellings, or a city park, requires a total commitment by the community at large.  If structural or organizational procedures are not in place and citizens are unwilling to participate, then such projects will not succeed.  With positive citizen input and action focused towards an undeniably worthy cause, blighted communities can be resurrected and lives changed.  With the right organizational tools and financial backing in hand, any community revitalization project can become a worthwhile endeavor.

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