Hypothetical situation in a hypothetical place

5 Dec

Before we begin, I want to preface this discussion with the following:  I am gainfully employed at one of the number of grocery store chains that operate in Athens.  A controversy has arisen recently involving the potential development of a new location for another “big box” store operated by another grocery and superstore chain, to be opened in downtown Athens.  As a responsible blogger who often looks for local topical issues to discuss, I feel this story can’t be ignored.  However, as an employee at a competing store, I will deal primarily in hypotheticals for the purpose of this blog’s discussion.  Now that we have a clear understanding of the rules, let’s get down to business, shall we?

So here’s the situation.  A local government has just faced great adversity from their constituents because of their discussion to close down part of a well-traveled downtown thoroughfare for the purpose of expanding the city’s major convention and entertainment center (or at least the largest one that isn’t associated with the university).  Eventually we’ve moved past this and on to bigger and better things, at least ostensibly.

What is this government’s major next move?  OH!  Let’s agree to a development deal with a major superstore chain to let them explore the feasibility of building a 90,000-square-foot store in the middle of downtown.  Yes, not too far from the iconic 40 Watt and Georgia Theatre, let’s plop a supermarket to attract more people to our downtown!

Splendid idea!

People are naturally up in arms about this proposal, and the potentially negative impact it could have on our downtown.  As for me, I see the benefits, and I see where the government is coming from, but on the heels of the fight over the entertainment/convention center, and with other fights soon to come about commission redistricting and reapportionment of our representation, I think the mayor and commission are taking a relatively large and uncalculated risk in letting this discussion and speculation rage on as long as it has.

That’s just my two cents, but we’ll keep up and see what ends up happening.

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One Response to “Hypothetical situation in a hypothetical place”

  1. Jaguwar December 5, 2011 at 6:53 am #

    (Full disclosure: I also work for a competing grocery chain. I do not have a particular loyalty to one or the other of these businesses, as I work at one and sometimes (though rarely) shop at the other.)

    A large part of the problem is that the Mayor and Commission essentially let this happen covertly. The Flagpole had a good article delineating the timeline of this project so far. In a community that clearly wants to be involved in economic development and will protest loudly when its wishes are ignored or avoided, that was a bigger mistake.

    Obviously, we have a problem with poverty and unemployment that is one of the highest in the nation. We need to fix that. However, is the answer a big box store just anywhere in town? I don’t think so. There are much better locations for that. Unless they have a plan to redo the streets down there and help eliminate (or, at least, maintain) traffic flow down there.

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