20-20 ForesightFour years ago, the brilliant savants who control this space offered for the viewing pleasure of readers a recipe for a "no-fail" downtown New Haven retail district.The "no-fail" idea was simple: Nurture existing downtown service and retail businesses, and attract new one, by clearly and loudly communicating the message that the buy ambien online no prescription political leaders, chamber of commerce, and major business would not permit individual businesses to fail downtown.ambien generic By click here and. and technical support for small businesses. By setting agreed-upon goals for generating visitors, and publicly measuring them. By keeping the streets and sidewalks clean.
Using that as a yardstick, where are we today?
Well, by virtue of the 1997 creation of a downtown "special services" district, most people would acknowledge that the streets are indeed cleaner.
This is good. Beyond that, many downtown business owners would look at the unprecedented prosperity of the U.S. economy, compare that to their own fortunes, and ask: What gives?
What is it about New Haven - and Hartford, and Bridgeport - that renders them so seemingly prosperity-resistant, when the world around them is awash in success?
Part of the answer is that the cities' political leaders insist on thinking big - often, too big. In Hartford, Adriaen's Landing follows Constitution Plaza follows the Civic Center Mall. In New Haven, the Long Wharf mall follows Williams Specialty Steel follows the Connecticut Tennis Center.
We look to places such as Philadelphia and Cleveland for answers to entrenched urban ills, when exemplars of successful smaller-city downtowns are right under our noses, in places like Portland, Me. and Northampton, Mass., where dreams of grandiosity have the good sense to remain just that - dreams.
In New Haven, the all-or-nothing mall project - rather than creating a "no-fail" downtown - threatens to result in a downtown that many, if not most, existing downtown merchants are convinced is certain to fail. And many of them have come to believe, sadly, that the city administration is working not for them, but against them.
That discord in itself is a recipe for failure.
Given New Haven's experience with trying to hit five-run homers, the business community has a reason to be skeptical of big fixes that cost a half-billion dollars and without question will impact existing business owners who have (unlike the politicians) staked their livelihoods and family fortunes on the local marketplace.
They deserve, at the very least, to be listened to.
Ten years ago the city's economic-fortunes were inextricably linked to those of its largest employers. But Echlin and Sargent have passed to ownership by distant conglomerates. The local banks are a thing of the past, save one. The local phone company is gone; the local gas company will be gone by year's end; the local electric company won't be far behind.
The time has arrived for the political leadership to embrace a future economy dominated by smaller and mid-sized companies. Opening an honest, open-minded dialogue with them would be a fine start.