Is it pos­si­ble to res­cue down­town?

Imperial Valley Press - - OPINION - AR­TURO BO­JORQUEZ Ar­turo Bo­jorquez is Ade­lante Valle Ed­i­tor.

Few days ago I was walk­ing through an al­ley in down­town Calexico, an area that, at a glance, might appear to be a ghost town.

Just on Mon­day sev­eral work­ers were ex­tract­ing racks from the now semi-empty build­ing of what used to be home of the JC Pen­ney store. It was a sad picture, par­tic­u­larly for some like my mother, who pa­tron­ized the store for years.

The store had been for decades a well- stocked source for cloth­ing, house­wares and other items. That be­gan to change a few weeks ago when the chain an­nounced a liq­ui­da­tion sale lead­ing up to the store’s clo­sure.

The corporation de­cided to shut the store’s doors on Sun­day, on Amer­i­can Mother’s Day. By Wed­nes­day, work­ers were unin­stalling the old store signs and plac­ing them on a pri­vate com­pany hired to clean the build­ing.

This is not the first in the line of busi­nesses ex­it­ing the once at­trac­tive, bustling area. Western Auto, Im­pe­rial Stores, Rite Aid, Bank of Amer­ica and Sel­wick’s are only few of many other busi­nesses no longer there.

That does not mean busi­nesses can’t suc­ceed there. Take as an ex­am­ple the 7 Eleven store at Rock­wood Av­enue. On any given morn­ing, shop­pers form long lines in or­der to buy their cof­fee, bread, milk, sport bev­er­ages, news­pa­pers and other prod­ucts. The hard­work­ing em­ploy­ees of the con­ve­nience store must do mir­a­cles ev­ery sin­gle day to keep the store clean while as­sist­ing cus­tomers. On some oc­ca­sions, em­ploy­ees must man­age two cash reg­is­ters si­mul­ta­ne­ously for clients to pay and leave the premises as soon as pos­si­ble.

Next to the con­ve­nience store, San Diego-based Jack in the Box is full of din­ers from dawn to dusk as well.

Some other busi­nesses, while not over­crowded, have kept mak­ing money for many years, main­tain­ing their doors opened and re­tain­ing em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties for lo­cals and oth­ers from beyond.

So what is the key to res­ur­rect­ing an ap­par­ently de­pressed area like down­town Calexico? And how can it be repli­cated and sus­tained in other com­mu­ni­ties in our Val­ley?

I am far from be­ing an author­ity on this sub­ject, so I am un­able to pro­vide a de­fin­i­tive an­swer to these ques­tions. How­ever, I have an idea of what could work to re­vi­tal­ize the area.

First, au­thor­i­ties and busi­nesses must find a niche. Border cross­ing times, par­tic­u­larly on foot, has turned crazy over the years, but that has not af­fected some shin­ing stores. As said above, some com­pa­nies or busi­ness own­ers had found the way to be suc­cess­ful.

At the same time, de­spite the po­lit­i­cal cli­mate of the past two years, stake­hold­ers have to de­ter­mine a way to fa­cil­i­tate cross­ing at the border. It is true the pedes­trian port of en­try has the high­est de­mand dur­ing week­day morn­ings, but with maybe few changes visi­tors can cross faster, giv­ing lo­cal busi­nesses a big­ger chance to sell more. That would mean in­creased tax rev­enue for the city.

Please, please, please, study cus­tomers, pedes­tri­ans and even lo­cal res­i­dents. They are the blood of our com­mer­cial veins. The county re­leased not so long ago the re­sults of a study about some pur­chas­ing pat­terns of visi­tors. But it must go deeper, and such in­for­ma­tion has to be shared with those in­volved in lo­cal busi­ness.

And for city coun­cil mem­bers and city of­fi­cials, I urge them to ease the bur­den of do­ing busi­ness down­town, par­tic­u­larly with per­mits, fees and pub­lic safety ser­vices for the re­birth of the area.

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