A walkable downtown leads to success

Published 8:18 pm Sunday, May 7, 2017

Let us this week get back to what we all want our downtown to be, and that is — the way it used to be!

My dad always told me that nothing was ever the way it used to be. We all want what is better, even if it takes change. Change is a frightening word, and it gets more frightening as we get older because it might take some adjusting. Still, we all want what is best. Let me begin this article by defining the WHDA’s role in the changing process.

The WHDA is the economic arm of our central business district that embraces vibrancy and works for sustainability and visibility for our downtown merchants. We are a working board that sees hope and a great future for our merchants and the central business district. We are working hard to help sustain and bring more energy to downtown Washington through economic development. We have sat lofty goals and are willing to take baby steps if necessary to attain these goals through due diligence and perseverance.

We, as citizens, have lost something to the era of malls, big box stores and online shopping. That is a feeling of community, which was created by our downtown. It was a place we could watch parades, meet for dinner or just enjoy a movie. Trust me, your WHDA is striving to bring the value of a healthy harbor district, where history, culture, unique businesses and the enjoyment of the river meet. The WHDA will do this for you with your help!

At a recent state convention, it was said, “that a downtown that is only commercial from 10 a.m. till 5 p.m. was dying.” Well, we have open restaurants after 5 that are as good as you will find anywhere.

Maybe they do not stay open until midnight, or our stores are not open on Sunday. This is part of Washington’s charm. Together, with the WHDA, let us all take small steps needed to help in this process.

It is part of Washington’s uniqueness, and this appeals to many. Reviving our downtown will require residents, businesses and governments working together, one step at a time. Every town’s recovery efforts are different, but a majority do not have what we have — the Pamlico River! Let me start a series today on factors needed to start our rebuilding process.

First is walkability. We have discussed this many times over the last year, and after last week at the Marine Market and BoCO Traditional Music Festival, this was a proven commodity in Washington. Tayloe Drug Store has agreed to sponsor this year’s farmers market, and people just walk in and out of the market to shop for fresh commodities that are produced locally. Some pass by and enjoy the fresh air and our seagulls overhead. Our city has a boardwalk that many just enjoy walking on after they have had a meal at one of our many fine restaurants, along with People’s Pier, where they can enjoy looking at our river. This entices visitors, and visitors bring us revenue. People do not have to worry about speed bumps on Main Street or Stewart Parkway to slow cars down. They feel safe from vehicular traffic, which makes shopping a relaxing event. The WHDA has provided one piano and will seek another, if needed, for shoppers to play as they visit. This also makes shopping a treat. Our alleyways are being brightened, so that connectivity to the river will be easier. All the above affords visitors to Washington a pleasurable walking experience not offered in many communities, yet a must for downtown.

Let me finish, like always, by asking you once again before you go out of town or online to buy, please give our merchants the first chance. They have worked hard and deserve this opportunity, and they also work hard for you. Anytime you are downtown and get the chance, please take an opportunity to take a walk with the H-Rob! Love you all!

Harold Robinson is the director of development at the Washington Harbor District Alliance.