Lawrenceburg Mayor Dennis Carr addresses the audience at Lawrenceburg Main Street's annual meeting Wednesday at Ivy Tech Community College.
(Lawrenceburg, Ind.) – Sprawling shopping malls are no longer being built in favor of open-air retail lifestyle centers because big name stores want their facades to look and feel like a small town streetscape.
“Crestview Hills or Rookwood Commons are something we all recognize. What do we have in common with those? They want to look like downtown Lawrenceburg, only we look ten times better,” Lawrenceburg Main Street, Inc. director Pat Krider told business owners and city leaders at the organization’s annual meeting Wednesday.
Krider said consumers want not only a great value when they go shopping, but also excellent service to go with the experience.
That’s where small businesses like those scattered through downtown Lawrenceburg can excel.
“Our businesses need to be moving in a direction where they are really serving the needs of the people. If they do that, they really got a shot at being successful,” said Krider.
Krider admitted 2011 was a difficult year for downtown businesses, with six closing for a variety of reasons.
“A lot of new businesses have no idea what it takes to operate on a continuous basis. That’s a major problem we’ve had,” she said.
Lawrenceburg City Council has frozen its small business grant programs as Lawrenceburg Main Street works with council to make improvements.
“They’re looking to make the (grant programs) better than ever. When they are reintroduced we hope to be able to use those again,” Krider said, later adding one of the advancements could be strategic planning to recruit the types of businesses that will create a great downtown,
Despite the setbacks, seven new businesses opened during 2011 thanks to various programs through Main Street. Twenty grants capped at $1,000 were awarded from the Commercial Sign and Awning Grant Program. The building Paint and Facade Improvement Grant, also up to $1,000, went to 17 businesses.
In 2012, Main Street will work to let people know what lies in downtown Lawrenceburg. The organization and city are working to enhance the gateways to downtown, particularly Center Street from U.S. 50.
Drawing potential customers to downtown businesses is easier when they live there. Main Street awarded 14 grants of $10,000 to purchasers of new residential homes in the Main Street district. Business and property owners are also receiving help establishing apartments on their second and third floors.
Events like Music on the River, Party on the Street (expanded from twice in its first year last year to at least four dates this summer), pub crawls, the Lawrenceburg Farmers Market, and perhaps even a circus will help draw crowds.
As important as having a downtown primed for success is marketing it. Enter a new slogan and website debuted Wednesday: ThinkLawrenceburg.com.
Main Street has contracted with downtown business Epop Studio to build the new website which offers member businesses each a customizable page of their own. The organization also has new Facebook and Twitter accounts with plans to add promotional videos to YouTube.
“Social media. That really is an area we have lacked in. It has taken us a while to get it going but we are on that path right now,” Krider said.
A planned $40 million event center project by the City of Lawrenceburg and Penn National Gaming, owner of Hollywood Casino, could lead the downtown district into a new era.
“I realize how fortunate we are in Lawrenceburg… …We have a lot to look forward to,” Krider said.