A town without a vibrant downtown is a town without a heartbeat.
Garner’s downtown has a heartbeat, though it’s weaker than many would like to see.
That’s why two recent news stories give us reason to be excited. The town’s focus on revitalizing downtown continues. Garner’s Downtown Revitalization organization continues to sponsor events, like the recent food truck rodeo, that are designed to bring visitors downtown. They may come for the food, but organizers also hope they will see that there are stores, offices and shops downtown, too, that are worthy of their patronage – if not then, at some point.
Then there’s the news of the groundbreaking for Garner’s new recreation center. It is not new news, of course, that Garner officials were planning to erect a recreation center in downtown. Voters had been promised the facility in return for their favorable vote on a 2013 bond referendum. But in the world of local bonds, there’s always a chance that plans could change and, until the work begins on a project, its supporters must hold their breath.
Like the food truck rodeo, the recreation center will bring people downtown. But more than the event-based activities, the recreation center will be an activity center, drawing people year-round for a variety of reasons. That will make downtown much more of a destination than it currently is. At that point, the town’s heart will start beating at a healthier pace.
Add to those two considerations, the fact that the Wake County transit plan – which is, itself, beholden to a vote of the people – calls for a rail stop in downtown Garner, which is likely to bring even more people and we could reasonably expect to see Garner’s downtown as a hustling, bustling place in the next 10 years.
What we hope – and we’re sure local government officials hope, too – is that private investment will follow.
That will be the final boost Garner’s downtown needs to become a place with a giant heartbeat.