Living in Warren for the past 28 years, and a former member of the Warren County Future of Agriculture group through the Penn State Ag Extension in Youngsville, a recent letter to the editor pinpointed why I have chosen to make as many purchases as possible at the Warren Downtown stores and go to the restaurants and banks there as well. It also cleared up why the “Buy Fresh Buy Local” initiative was so appealing to me.
Mailing a package and buying stamps as the clerk calls you by name; arriving at a restaurant whose owner is familiar with your family; buying shoes from a friendly businessman who recognizes you because you built up a mutual relationship over the years, aware they stand by their products; buying flowers from a person whose aim is to select just the right arrangement for you or the person to whom you will send them; finding organic food and local dairy products from a smiling person whose newborn’s name is known to me.
“Social Fabric” is the sense of assurance of finding up-cycled, re-cycled classic novels, antiques, linens, music, from shopkeepers who know their inventory and will do their best to find what you want; having my watch battery replaced by a drugstore clerk who sees me at church on Sundays; yoga classes, caterers and classes offered in town by former students now productive adults in our small town.
Prices may be a bit higher than on-line shopping but a variety of unique, one-of-a-kind handmade wares abound in downtown Warren. Seeing and trying on or trying out products with the assistance of a cordial person far surpasses staring at a screen at home.
If you haven’t experienced this genuine “social fabric” of life in Warren give it a try.
BUT the downtown business community could help in the following ways:
-require your workers to park away from the storefront curbs.
-model for your co-workers parking at the midtown or blue garage.
-offer parking incentives and encourage the benefits of walking a bit further to park
I’ve seen first-hand workers feeding the meters right in front of their workplace, business owners parking in spaces which could be used by customers going to the bank, investment company or insurance agency. Restaurant and drugstore workers taking up many of the available parking spots closest to their business. Elderly and handicapped folks have no access to convenient parking spaces to keep empty storefronts from returning to our town.
Many people are in an uproar regarding the parking meters. Let’s try these few approaches and see how many people are able to SAVOR the “social fabric” of rural America with fewer frustrating loops around the block seeking out a place to park!
Karen Davis, Warren
I also was at Monday’s council meeting. My impression of the interaction between Dan Ristau and City council is not the same as today’s writer.
Mr. Ristau frequently addresses City Council with an overview of the state of downtown retail businesses. This is a real service to both the council and the gallery. He has been addressed with and listened to with respect. Mr. Ristau has, unfortunately, self-identified his reception by council as lacking respect for him. I think this detracts from his effectiveness.
An immediate granting of a perceived solution to a single facet of a complex, ongoing problem has all too often been an impulsive conciliatory effort that later makes the problem worse. I think there has been enough inadequately thought through “solutions” applied to the downtown parking problem.
I don’t think anyone disagrees that the character of downtown Warren has fundamentally changed since the last department store closed its doors forever. Some say the change came with redevelopment and the city finally became more progressive; some say the downtown has lost its soul and is no longer a place of community instead becoming a downtown commercial complex with a focus on serving their self- interests.
I think it has been forgotten that Warren has another downtown community center that begs for attendance. The parking is free. The program is often quite lively and of vital interest to everyone in Warren. It is the Warren City Council meetings. Please make a commitment to participate in the ongoing conversation taking place in council chambers regarding the decisions that determine the direction and ultimate character of Warren. If you really don’t like Warren’s downtown and you really want to change direction, then go to the council meetings. Listen to the actual workings of city government, think about the issues and offer some viewpoints. Stay through the entire city council meeting and return to the next meeting and the next and the one after that.
Truthfully, I had taken what I describe as the social fabric of our downtown for granted because it has always been there.
What is this social fabric I speak of? It was socialization on many levels made possible by leisurely visits.
Say you were headed to the post office, and afterwards decided to walk down the street to visit a merchant you know or store you like. And afterwards, decided to head further down the street to check out something else.
That leisureliness was killed off by the installation of meters and issuance of heavy-handed fines. People no longer feel free to enjoy all of downtown, instead, now very much single task oriented, worried and watching the clock. In and out of downtown, that is if you’re not part of the many who have not returned.
One would think the vast amount of open parking spaces would be evidence enough of something gone wrong, and it is for the majority, but a small minority; City Council and City Administration, don’t see it.
As for City Councilmembers, each have distinguished knowledge from their careers, but the hard fact is, not one of them know a damn thing about downtown or redevelopment, and together they made a horribly wrong calculation.
The City Administration is up to their necks in doing what government does best; self-perpetuation. When we should be getting out of the parking business by jettisoning Big Blue the moment legally possible, we find ourselves $250,000+ deeper in, through the purchase of meters and other equipment. And no government project is without problems, and so it is we own meters which freeze in the winter, need locks drilled out continuously and the major security feature abandoned, all leading to cost overruns (currently hidden) And guess what? They want to spend more and expand further.
As I said at council Monday evening; City Council and City Administration wish our respect, but the fact is, they have no respect for our downtown or downtown small business owners.
As I have quite publically stated; I will accept nothing less than the downtown back to the way it was September 2014, and I strongly suggest City Council and City Administration begin respecting downtown business owners and get to work on fixing what they broke.
Main Street President
I read with interest about the meeting that was held with council and Mr. Ristau and his allies in regard to the parking situation downtown. I will be interested to see what his next move will be.
He sure was rebuffed by council and also by the mayor. I saw no sympathy coming from them at all. They say they will consider some of these ideas and present them at the next meeting (1 month from now). Then they go on to say that they will review the whole parking situation and report back in September (5 months from now). If this is not a rebuff, I do not know what is. Action on the parking situation should be taken up at a special meeting with the next couple of weeks, not stalling it up to 5 months. I could not believe the attitude that council and the mayor displayed at that meeting.
I can tell you that I know a lot of people that refuse to go downtown and will only go downtown in the evenings and weekends when the parking is free. It is just like it was years ago with the meter maids- all you kept doing was worrying about your time on a meter for fear a meter maid was going to nail you. Now we have meter men walking around town just waiting to slap $15 tickets on vehicles. (This amount is by far too extreme- another turnoff for the downtown).
Then there is the problem of employees parking on the street. It is not as much of a problem as it used to be as there are lots of vacant spaces anyway. But these vehicles should all be registered and be told to park in the parking ramps. I regularly see employees coming out and feeding the meters.
Another problem with the downtown is the number of retail stores we have there. How many are there? Not many. The city has allowed too many offices to go in the downtown and has ruined it for any possible retail stores to go back in the downtown. There is not much of a variety of stores there anymore. For example, if you wanted to buy something as simple as a hammer or screw driver, where would you go?
Another problem with the downtown is smokers. They stand outside the buildings and blow smoke all over and it absolutely stinks when you walk by. Also, notice the sidewalks and how many butts there are lying around. This is very bad in the Market St Plaza. Smoking should be banned totally in the downtown as it cheapens the appearance of the downtown. At least give these people and broom and dust pan and make them clean up If these people want to smoke, let them do it at home or they can go and ruin their car and do it there (smoker’s cars suffer big depreciation as it is almost impossible to restore the interior). .
So, Mr. Ristau, now what? Council has got you backed into a corner now with their lack of sympathy. We wonder how you are going to escape.