Our downtown

Judging from the reaction this week, the discussion about changing the look and feel of Findlay’s downtown has hit a nerve. While that extent of the pushback might not have been expected, it’s understandable.
Regardless of one’s age, or position in the community, just about everyone has a feeling about what their Main Street should be.
Older generations may have sentimental memories of places like Woolworth’s, the Harris Theater, Miller’s, Zieroff’s, Patterson’s, or maybe even the Mecca. Younger people may not have the emotional attachment, but still desire a good place to eat, drink or just hang out.
The problem is, we all have a different interest in downtown and what it should look like.
Regardless of the outcome of the plan now on the table, the conversation is a valuable one to have. Downtown helps define who we are as a community and we all should have a hand in shaping it.
While there seems to be much early opposition to reverse-angle parking, the overwhelming overall support of the plan by downtown merchants and Marathon Petroleum Corp. can’t be ignored.
It can be argued that those who have invested most heavily in downtown should have a louder voice.
The merchants must have customers to spend time and money at their businesses, at a time when more people are shopping online and at malls.
Marathon, which recently committed to keeping its “home” in downtown Findlay, simply wants to help create an environment that will be attractive to the people it employs and hopes to keep.
We all need young families to make Findlay their long-term destination.
Of course, the rest of us have a right to speak up, too, or “write crazy letters to the editor,” as the mayor suggests.
As the discussion moves forward, we hope the city administration and council will not only be sympathetic to different points of view, but also hear what people are saying.
Certainly, the changes that are being suggested represent a dramatic shift. Opposition may not be what plan backers want, but it is relevant and needs to be considered.
It’s one thing to write a question down on a piece of paper for an expert to answer at a later point. It’s another thing for the community to be heard in a public forum.
At the same time, citizens should also give thought to ideas that may seem out of place for Findlay. Research what other communities have done to reinvent their downtowns, or maybe even practice reverse-angle parking in a parking lot.
City administrators insist the plan is a work in progress, subject to change, and that input will be considered.
Three meetings were held Wednesday, and another is scheduled for March 24 at the Findlay Inn and Conference Center. Even more may be needed.
No one has suggested, at least not yet, that it’s an all-or-nothing idea. Service-Safety Director Paul Schmelzer seems to be keeping it all in the proper perspective.
“If this is not something the community wants, the last thing I want to do is waste time pursuing this,” he said at one of this week’s meetings.
Perhaps the plan will need to be revised. Perhaps naysayers will get more comfortable with reverse-angle parking after they learn more about it. Maybe not.
But no one should believe we’re wasting time. This may not be as big as flood control, but it’s still important. Let’s give the plan the positive criticism and thoughtful consideration it deserves.

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