Build it and they will come?

News that the downtown construction project is substantially completed and streets are now open is welcome news as autumn debuts.

With construction of the new Ward County Jail also ahead of schedule, one could begin to envision a less dusty, more accessible downtown in the near future.

Sure, the parking ramps remain an issue unlikely to be resolved anytime soon, but for the sake of argument, let’s leave the ramps in a category all of their own.

Will the signs declaring downtown is open go away now? Will they still be necessary as people learn of open streets downtown? Or will they need to stay there for an extended period of time?

Perhaps the most obvious question is, now that it’s built, will people come downtown in the mass necessary to support not just existing businesses, but hopefully also new businesses attracted to a more convenient setting?

Believers feel a renewed city core will attract development, new businesses, pedestrian patrons and the type of resurgence other cities have had when investing in their downtowns. No downtown is ever going to reflect a Petula Clark vision again. But a live-work-play environment appealing to young professionals, students and the creative class? That’s been the upside of efforts in other communities.

Critics see a waste of money, investment being made in a part of town for which there is little or no development interest. A common complaint is that there simply isn’t enough downtown to attract people there now, and that is unlikely to change anytime soon.

Both proponents and critics have good points – as conjecture.

What will happen in reality?

We’ll soon see.

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