By Greg Ritchie
CROCKETT – The City of Crockett played host to a public meeting and strategic visioning workshop Thursday, Aug. 17 at the former Masonic Temple building in downtown Crockett.
The recently renovated building was an attraction in itself, as local business owners and interested parties enjoyed the surroundings along with food provided by Joni Clonts.
The city of Crockett had found and invited the business, Retail Strategies, to help Crockett analyze where the city is in terms of tourism and attracting business to the area, what the community feels it needs, and making a strategic plan to meet these goals and set new ones.
With several dozen people in attendance, Retail Strategies began their presentation with President Jennifer Gregory and Director of Real Estate Elliot Cook leading the seminar. It was the Downtown Strategies division of the business which presented facts and a five-year strategy seeking input from the city and local residents to build the pillars of that plan.
The company told attendees, “Most communities do not suffer from a lack of ideas, they struggle with knowing where to start when it comes to implementing their ideas. Rather than brainstorming everything you could ever potentially do to your downtown, we focus on a five-year timeframe. This plan is designed to help you identify where your community should focus its energy and effort in the near-term.”
The group explained their approach to creating the strategy, utilizing their “five pillars”:
- Market Analysis – to uncover and define economic potential in the downtown area
- Design – creating a thoughtful design to support a transformation in the community
- Tourism and Promotion – to power an economic engine
- Economic Vitality – creating opportunity for investment
- Policy and Administration – setting a foundation for smart growth
Locals were asked some tough and insightful questions at the meeting, provoking responses about the direction Crockett’s downtown should take. Questions such as, “What would be the photo in a postcard of downtown Crockett? What is unique about downtown; what would you show off to people who come to visit? What is your favorite thing to do in downtown Crockett? What is the biggest hurdle to success in downtown Crockett?”
Downtown Crockett Association (DCA) President Connie Strban, one of the local groups participating in the event, was delighted with both the turnout and how engaged people were in helping to promote and grow the downtown area.
“A lot of people spoke up and talked about their vision and what they would love to see – revitalization, renovation and progress, while restoring the historic component that we have – which frankly I feel like is not being utilized as it should,” Strban said. “Safety and additional parking on the square were some of the main things people hoped to see.”
The group presented several studies, including a walkability assessment and an economic demographic assessment. The economic study showed what businesses prosper in the area, what businesses people come to the area to visit and what businesses locals leave the area to make purchases. This showed what businesses are attracting customers and which businesses could be opened in the area to keep residents buying local, instead of going out-of-county to buy certain goods.
“I was amazed that, for instance, is they have the ability through tracking cell phones, to see where people go, how far and how long they stay and when they come back,” Strban explained. “What kind of places they go to – online apps and all these things are free, because they track and can sell all of our information.”
The walkability assessment showed there is much work to be done to make Crockett more walk-friendly for visitors. The city scored a 35, meaning most errands will need to be done by car. The city can use this analysis as they plan projects in downtown Crockett, seeking to make the area more suited for visitors to park and be able to walk around and enjoy more attractions by foot.
“People spoke about the need for businesses, restaurants and public restrooms to stay open later or open on Sundays,” Strban said.
The group will be taking the comments from locals along with their own studies and return soon with recommendations about to continue to work to make Crockett great again.
Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]