The Hometown Headlines Podcast premiere week continues with our first “long-form” podcast, all of 45 minutes or so with two of the most passionate people when it comes to downtown Rome, Harry Brock and Jay Shell.
Recorded in the new podcast center at Brand Red studio off Fifth Avenue and Bale Street, the two downtown business owners talk about the parking battles that have consumed shop and business owners, the Downtown Development Authority and City Hall as well as the most critical element that all sides practically ignored — customers. Make the angry customers.
They talk about restaurant owners seeing thousands of dollars in less sales this year vs. last, in part because of the duplicated smoking ordinances but also the roll out of new parking requirements and regulations. Even their most loyal customers tell of plans to abandon regular trips to Broad Street restaurants and retailers as they’re tired of the hassles they experience when they try to come downtown to spend money.
Brock and Shell see Monday’s scheduled second and final reading of City Commissioner Craig McDaniel’s proposal to grant three hours of free parking daily and rolling back enforcement to 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Saturday as just a baby step toward needed efforts to change the perception of downtown shopping and dining. And that’s assuming commissioners vote in favor of it; a no vote effectively would table the idea and they fear an even larger customer backlash if that happens.
Both also are watching the potential impact of the East Bend center (formerly Kmart) and its 20 to 28 new stores and restaurants; they’re concerned about how much business could be sucked off Broad Street and into a retail center with plenty of free parking.
These next four days leading up to the 6:30 p.m. Monday City Commission meeting are critical. Join us for our downtown parking podcast to get a better understanding of what’s gone on and what’s ahead.