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

Going South

Like Cindy Larson, I'm a resident of the south side -- never domiciled in any other part of town except for a few months after the Army when I lived with a friend in a trailer park off of North Clinton and then shared an apartment with two other people at Centlivre. Also like Cindy, I've been dismayed by the diminishing shopping choices there, and I have fond memories of Southtown. One of my favorite things to do was to swing through the bookstore to get a magazine or something else to read and then take it down to MCL to peruse during a full-course meal.

But, unlike Cindy, I don't have high hopes for the new shopping center at the former Southtown site. Shopping money tends to follow the path of economic development, and that's not southeast Fort Wayne right now. Either the the center will fail, confirming normal economic patterns, or it will defy the odds and succeed, which might not have the effect some people hope it will. Why is there an assumption that new shopping on the south side will suck money out of the north end of town? Isn't it more likely that people will just redirect their southside shopping dollars? Isn't the first victim of Menard's likely to be the Do It Best hardware store at Southgate, expanded by the local owner who had faith in the south end of town? Betting on retail to revitalize a declining part of town is always risky, but in these days of expanded online shopping it seems like a real long shot.

Besides, I only have so much energy and attention to devote to a high-risk attempt to reverse the tide of history, and right now the romantic in me is still hoping that downtown can be turned around.

But the wheels are in motion, and I hope I'm wrong.

Posted in: Our town


Bob G.
Mon, 03/20/2006 - 9:06am

I agree with both of you...provisionally.

Cindy makes some good points, and feels the way I want to, regarding a renaissance of retail on the south side. Being a resident of this city for 9 years, I still recall Southtown, albeit in it's death knell. Yet I did enjoy having a REAL music store, REAL bookstore, Hallmark shop, Penneys, Sears, Ayres, Kohls, and that wonderful ice cream cubbyhole, owned by a very pleasant older gentleman (who managed to hold out until the bitter end) on THIS side of town, and that is where MY money went, until *it* (retail) went away.

MY wife remembers the mall in it's heyday, and although the *new* stores are a major PLUS for this part of town, I can't see a mere handful of "big-boxes" replacing the close to 50+ stores that were part and parcel of Southtown. Those numbers just won't crunch. The fallout as mentioned with DO IT BEST (and possibly others as well) doesn't give one that feeling of (retail) security.

Although I like K-Mart for some things, no store can be a *catch-all* for every single need...not even Wal-Mart with it's monolithic superstores. There needs to be more cozy, family-owned shops for the niche-shopper in all of us.

And remember that Wal-Mart has a habit of "up-and-leaving" an area at the drop of a hat!

I feel that unless more pertinent issues are addressed, any more retail is destined to follow in the footsteps of Southtown, Target, and sundry other businesses that have closed over this past decade.
Crime and apathy are working hand-in-hand to surpress most development here...you see it in the housing alone. Most every street has at least ONE house vacant, abandoned, or in disrepair. Thefts, burglaries, and robberies are rampant.(shoplifting = pass the cost to the consumer)

The liability alone for retail in an environment ripe with crime is through the roof, so who could blame ANY retailer for NOT wanting to continue down here (unless things change)?

When streets that have been freshly swept (by the city) are freshly littered soon after, with no effort to clean things up or maintain a level of livability, it doesn't take much to see that the problem is not a lack of retail...it becomes a lack of respect, a lack of pride, a lack of humanity. Anyone that would have us believe that poverty is the issue must have missed the article stating that the SOUTH part of town has the SECOND HIGHEST amount of spendable income. And you'd *think* that would mean shopping....

Yes, Virginia...we still have SOME working class stiffs about down here.
But apathy and crime will go much farther to quash any economic development, no matter what part of town they are found in.

So until people (en masse) begin to start CARING again, I think ANY long term development project will wind up like Southtown.
But...I *could* be wrong...let's wait and see.
In the meantime....I'll be calling Menards my 2nd home...LOL!

Bob G.