We are not saying downtown is bad.
But we want downtown Live Oak — and Branford, and Jasper, and Jennings, and White Springs, and Mayo — to be great.
And it can be.
It is great to see some new businesses.
It is great to see investment in properties.
Not great are shuttered storefronts and locked doors.
We are not reporting any secrets in the SunLight Project when we point out that Thomasville, Ga., has an amazing downtown district.
It is stating the obvious.
Everyone in the region knows it.
Every downtown has its own character and its own challenges.
We are not saying it is easy.
There are certain things that vibrant downtowns have in common, including:
— A lot of restaurants and cafes
— A variety of retail shops open in the evenings
— Well lighted
— Walkable spaces
— Lots of outdoor dining tables
— Live music
— Events, downtown festivals
— Pet friendly
— Arts and entertainment
So many of these things are the province of private enterprise and not the work of government.
Still there are things municipalities can do.
Here are the two most important.
First and foremost, make it easy to build, open and operate a business downtown.
Live Oak has had burdensome city codes and business regulations. In addition to loosening regulations, which the city began the process of doing last year, be flexible and work with business and building owners.
Don’t worry about creating the perfect looking downtown. Be more concerned about incubating a robust, busy downtown.
Second, incentivize. Invest. Granting tax abatements, waiving fees and even providing mini grants for new or expanding businesses should be viewed as an investment in the future of our community.
We love downtown.
We want to see downtown thrive, not just survive.