Interesting article over at the Mercury about some of the new ideas for the Pottstown region’s development in some recent studies.
I particularly liked the idea about developing a social media and purchasing network locally in Pottstown and the surrounding area. For example, we all know we can get really cheap items from Amazon, but we also know that there is a downside to really inexpensive items- there isn’t anywhere to easily exchange them if they are broken, and there isn’t anyone to talk to if you aren’t quite sure about how your item works, or if there are replacements, or additional items that can be added to it. Wouldn’t it be nice to have local businesses selling you a little more expensive item that has value added to that price in that you have a knowledgeable local staff ready to answer questions?
I know I’d pay more, not a lot, but enough extra to know that I have a local place I can visit if my item only came with an electrical cord that fits European outlets! ( That has actually happened to me.) Experience with online buys has also shown me that it’s nice to know I can get an additional item just like the one I have. Wouldn’t it be great if I knew that the owner of the business would know how to access it and not feel like everything I buy is limited to whatever is in the warehouse currently at Gi-Normous Box Store so that when the item gets sold out, there are no more similar items available for sure!
I also like the idea of Pottstown being more friendly to home grown businesses. The downside to that plan is how do you regulate the type of home based business that you want to have in town.
What would be interesting is if we used a “Monopoly” board game type design so that each neighborhood had a particular income level for businesses. It would be good for the town if we used a sort of a backward design plan. For example, a high commodity business that brings in a lot of money, but that isn’t as interested in the cute shop front would have to be located next to or near to lets say, a bank or a big box store. Some of our companies in town are already working in that kind of pattern. I think it works!
The problem with zoning as it stands is it sometimes creates islands of accessibility, or inaccessibility. I think we need to rethink that.
Like with my plan the nails, and the hair salons, and the massage places would have to be located in extremely expensive neighborhoods. So too would small doctors offices and personal care businesses like hearing centers and eye care offices. Then a smattering of coffee shops and ice cream stores and you have a really friendly upscale personal care district.
Small business like local jewelry stores will be situated in neighborhood’s with attractive street-scapes. Other businesses in that area might be clothing stores, or shoe stores, or even high end music stores. That would make it more attractive to shoppers, and I think they should go into ” regular folks” neighborhoods.
My idea is to radically change zoning so that the neighborhoods will sort of police the local businesses. That bank I mentioned next to a metal collecting business, or a large flag making business is going to gussy up their own area. They will be rewarded by making their location user friendly.
The boutiques and jewelry shops or lighting and furniture design shops will be interested in selling both to visitors and to locals. If they are good enough to be in the community they will be responsible neighbors too, they won’t be able to afford to be turning their noses up at the people who actually live nearby.
And the nail salons and hair styling places will need to be next to businesses or homes that we’d now think of as higher tax areas. Why? Well, because the folks that are more connected because they have more dollars tied up in a neighborhood aren’t going to stand for shady business practices or a lack of decent security.
Then all the other businesses have to come on a first come first served basis. If there are already 3 insurance agencies in a 10 block radius then that is probably enough for that community.
If there are 10 fast food locations then that too is probably enough, and the focus should be on developing a more upscale dining location.
If there is a school, then it might be a good idea to have businesses nearby that sell school products, or uniforms, or art supplies, or even sports equipment. Or how about healthy food.
That isn’t to say expansion isn’t possible. If more businesses want to come into an area they just have to restart another “hub”.
I also would bet that the business community has enough contacts that if they were to need a companion store they’d know who they’d want to work with! Whereas it’s almost impossible to choose which companies can work together smoothly unless you’ve been in business with them for years. We’ve relied for too long on developers selling real estate. They don’t care about the long range design of our communities!
My ideas might seem a little too ham handed to some, but I say we try something different!