When leaders came together this week to kick off the Waleska Street pedestrian improvements project, the plans breathed new life into town.
The opportunity to see something positive get moving gave everyone who cares about downtown a lift.
We all look forward to the entrance into downtown getting improvements. Now it is time to do more.
To really get on the right path to a vibrant downtown, it is time to see everyone who cares about the city moving in the same direction and working as a team. That means city and county officials, business owners, boards, residents and everyone who wants to see our city bloom joining forces in a positive fashion.
A recent plan to offer rent initiatives for new businesses locating to the downtown area raised more talk than action, despite support from both the Main Street Board and the Canton Downtown Development Authority.
I know anytime a new tax is proposed, the idea needs to be thoroughly vetted, but just like a patient who needs medical care can’t wait, Canton needs an infusion of new business right now.
I understand the pain for businesses already here, but the truth is that all businesses will benefit from additional retail and restaurants in downtown.
Too many buildings are setting empty in downtown Canton, first among them the old Jones Building owned by Cherokee County.
Not only does it occupy one of the most important pieces of real estate in town, it also impacts the look of the city.
Situated right on the downtown square, the old mercantile store, and later county offices and post office, is now turning into an eyesore. Its dated façade is in need of a face lift, and it is going to take someone with innovative ideas and deep pockets to do something there that will be successful.
But Canton need only look down the road at Woodstock to see the possibilities.
Woodstock dreams big, whether it is a music hall of fame, an amphitheater, a new city council chamber or commercial development.
Even with the downturn in the economy and a bankruptcy of the developers on a significant piece of the city pie, Woodstock is vibrant and booming right now. Other cities are taking notice and asking Woodstock leaders to share their secrets.
Canton needs big, bold ideas right now.
With Regions Bank out of downtown, and that building on the market, yet another major chunk of real estate is lying fallow.
It is time now to come up with some innovative ideas on how to use these buildings and to go out and seek the right kind of investment needed for our city.
It is time to set aside all differences and work together to get our city on track.
Of course, there is good news, too. We already have some wonderful and committed businesses and restaurants in downtown Canton.
Goin’ Coastal, Downtown Kitchen, R and M Hoagie Shop, Fork and Tavern and Downtown Deli Dogs are all serving up some great food.
Chamberhouse is one of the nicest stores for gifts, collectibles, decorating and accessories both for the home and for fashion. A visit there is worth a trip downtown.
We all love Key’s Jewelry, Yawn’s Books and More, and other downtown businesses who help make the city a great place to shop.
The Canton Theatre just got a new manager and a new director is at helm of the Cherokee Arts Center. Both facilities are making a name for themselves with cultural offerings of all types.
There are events galore in downtown Canton, from egg hunts to chocolate walks to parades. The First Friday events are pulling a big crowd.
The new office building next to Chamberhouse is making a splash. New companies occupy much of the space. There is still room for a restaurant.
Thanks to Sam Cloud and his recent renovation of the fire-damaged historic building that has housed his company for decades; the city streetscape on that side of Main Street looks better and brighter.
We have a foundation of success, and now we just need to build on that.
Let’s get some incentives in place, and see some new neighbors coming into town.
I hope Canton’s best days are still to come. In fact, I am sure of it.
Rebecca Johnston is managing editor of The Cherokee Tribune.