Saturday, September 11, 2010

Comments - We Get Comments

It’s nice to hear so much interesting feedback right off the bat. It would appear that there are some people in this community that care. Sadly people that pass through Columbus draw an instant impression by what they see on their way through. Those impressions last for years and they are hard to break unless things change in a big way.

Thanks for the comments…

“This IS how people driving through Columbus see us. I have to say it is funny (the blog) in a sad kind of way.”

“It's about time someone steps up and says something! Downtown has turned into CRAP!!!! I wish I didn't live right next to it!!!! Its disgusting. Empty buildings, trash everywhere, loud drunks roaming around at night pissing everywhere! When is it gonna end?!?!?! “

“God bless you for saying it. Somebody has to. “

“I've lived near town for a number of years now, and cannot believe that for a city of such massive potential (location very near Wisconsin's second largest city, as well as right along a major highway), it only seems to look more seedy and pointless as each year passes.

"more seedy and pointless as each year passes". That is quite a powerful statement.  It never crossed my mind that downtown Columbus might be pointless but what an interesting thought.  Some communities see the importance of making a good impression to customers, visitors and potential investors. Usually downtowns are one of the first places people visit when exploring a community.

This is how a preserved building looks in a community that cares. Someone here felt the downtown was important to the overall vitality of the community.

This building…

Could be this.

And this…

Could be this. It’s basically the same building. I would bet the window dressing is all reproduction put on a fairly simple building.  Look at the difference it makes. Somebody cared.

The old corner gas station…

Could be turned into this. Someone here obviously wanted to make this corner beautiful and a productive part of the community.

Now this building is empty but it actually has a happy story. Columbus is fortunate that this company outgrew this property and expanded in Columbus into a new facility. Could their old building look…

like this? I think so, probably better.

This doesn’t just happen.

Someone has to want it. For a community that has been on the National Register of Historic Places and a Wisconsin Main Street Community for umpteen years downtown Columbus as a whole doesn’t look anything like these communities. Beautiful downtowns lead to a good quality of life.  That is a conscious decision that communities choose. Columbus seems to have chosen something a little different.

Leadership to make something like this happen needs to start at City Hall. Citizens make it work because their elected officials know that the downtown is important to them. If the citizens don’t care then I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.

Streets need to look like this if you want shoppers walking them. Stand in downtown Columbus on a cloudy day and it looks lifeless and dying. No trees, few planters, no banners, street lights plastered with road signs, nothing of any welcoming nature. Combine that with windows covered in paper and rows of "for sale" and "for rent" signs and it’s not a very pleasing palette.

This could be Columbus. Unfortunately it’s not. I didn’t take these pictures just to put a blog together for Columbus. They are all cities that I have visited, enjoyed and remember.  Some downtown districts are memorable.  Is Columbus?  I plan to live in a community like this where the streets are filled with shoppers, families and visitors. No community is utopia but after being threatened by a drunk on Sunday afternoon and busted into on Monday morning Columbus seems far from it.

But it’s all in the details. Details matter. Weeds growing in the sidewalk matter. Newspapers scattered on the streets matter. Potholes matter. Peeling paint and garbage in the alleys matters. The clientele walking the streets in the evenings matter. Busted windows and slipshod repairs matter. I’m not seeing those things in the other communities you see here today and believe me I've looked.

Criminal activity is drawn to places where people don't care. Clean up and beautify a district it brings new investment, contributing residents and new business owners that want to be here. It seems pretty clear we are attracting people to downtown. They are people that walk our streets shouting obscenities in the middle of a Sunday afternoon, harass people, pick fights, trash our downtown and break into businesses.  In life we get what we ask for.

I was very pleased to see a couple projects currently happening. I walked by the former James Street Dining Company yesterday and was happy to see the windows were spotless, the tables were beautifully set and an Opening Soon sign in the window. Also the former True Value store has something going on as well. It’s a big space and when it’s empty it’s a big void. There has been a lot of remodeling and I see tables and chairs and display cases as well. That is outstanding news for downtown.

I need to send out a shout to someone Columbus is very fortunate to have. Steve Sobiek is your Economic Development Director. Steve matters. You need to let him know that. He is leading a big charge to bring new business to Columbus and some to the downtown area. These new business’s will need all the help they can get in this downtown right now. He is making good things happen and he deserves a pat on the back. Without a City ED Director like Steve it's not going to happen.

It’s not my motivation to be negative with this. It’s my motivation to open people’s eyes. Downtown continues to be a series of revolving doors for businesses and nothing is being addressed to fix it. Businesses cannot survive downtown for a number of reasons and this should concern citizens. People do not want to live downtown because it's an ugly scene at night. It's tough to get up for work in the morning when you were kept up by obnoxious jerks yelling in the streets at 1:00 AM.  A healthy downtown business and residential district will LOWER YOUR CITY PROPERTY TAXES. A worthless downtown will RAISE YOUR TAXES. Worthless neighborhoods generate crime and very little tax revenue. Sadly downtown Columbus is sliding in the wrong direction.

If you care about the direction downtown is headed send this to your friends, neighbors and fellow business people.

Which brings us to the question of the day that just happens to be a gardening question. What is the most beneficial time of the day to have your plants urinated on? Early morning or late evening?


  1. I love how you gave us visuals - something to hope for, strive for, and fight for. I agree that as the ED, Steve is critical to our town and I think he has been working very hard.

  2. Hi Kathy - I agree. Steve has been working hard and he is getting things done. People are the key. Had a very positive meeting with the Police Chief this morning. Communication with our city officials will be a good thing to make things move. I'm pleasantly surprised by the feedback I'm getting and who it's coming from. There are people out there that care.

  3. What needs to happen for the downtown to change? What is holding us back? Is it the city officials? The current business owners? Lack of money? Is there any one thing that is really hampering this effort?

  4. Yes, people get involved! There are existing groups who need new members to help them do the work to help make this city better:
    Columbus Main Street- specifically for the Historic Commercial Downtown District. We need help! We have been in the program since 1992 and the honeymoon is over! We have 4 committees you can choose from. Our meeting are the first Thursday of each month, 6:30PM at 128 W James St (in the Visitor Center that we run)or call Kim Bates at 623-5325 to see how you can get involved.
    Columbus Chamber- meets every Wednesday morning at the Columbus Country Club, 7:30AM.
    CDA (columbus Development Authority)- check the City website for the meeting dates.
    We don't need any new committees or groups- help the ones that already exist. Much of the apathy Todd talks about has spread to the groups- we can't get new people involved- everyone has ideas of what we should do but when asked to help they are too busy or find some other excuse.
    And Jenny- all the things you listed are part of the cause- there is no one thing, there never is.
    Pick the one thing you are passionate about and I can find you a group to join to help make it better!

  5. Paul Pyfferoen, AIAJanuary 3, 2017 at 1:41 PM

    I am a local architect in Columbus, Wi. I used to live and work in Sheboygan as well... I designed the front facade of Urbane (which you have highlighted within this blog!).
    I, too, think Columbus has such potential...