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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

Charming crap

Common sense wins out in southern Indiana:

 A task force appointed by Bloomington's mayor has decided against supporting his push to ban new chain stores and restaurants from parts of the city's downtown.

[. . .]

One businessman told the group that the threat of chain stores to the city's character isn't that great. CFC Inc. president Jim Murphy says that his company couldn't attract chain-store tenants to its downtown property because of the city's design restrictions and a lack of foot traffic.

City Councilwoman Isabel Piedmont-Smith says she doesn't want to remove existing chain stores, but wants to ensure they don't dominate the community.

I'll bet the threat "isn't that great." It's tough enough to get businesses to locate in downtowns these days without coming up with whole categories of business you won't even permit there. "Chains" thrive because they provide what people want. Only politicians can survive by constantly making promises they don't keep.

The ultimate (at least in my Indiana experience) in holding business hostage to "charm" is Nashville in Brown County, where every gas station and fast-food joint locating even close to downdown has to go through ridiculous and expensive architectural hoops to ensure that their buildings look like 19th century relics that would be appropriate when viewed from a passing buggy. I admit that quaint look was enough to keep me as a visitor for a while, but the thrill faded a bit when the cheap crap from Taiwan started outnumbering the actual Hoosier-craft items in those good-looking stores.