February 21, 2008

Reviving downtown Dryden

Last night's Cortland Standard had an article on the challenges facing small-town downtowns, including the Village of Dryden. Village Mayor Reba Taylor gets the pull quote in the print version - "I think a thriving downtown is always a good thing." - but her discussion of how to get there seems to be doom and gloom, without much thought given to what the Village itself could do to help the situation:

In Dryden, a fair number of businesses have moved from downtown to other locations in the village where they could build or rent new buildings in such areas as along Route 13.

It's good those businesses are still around, but too bad downtown is suffering in the meantime, according to Mayor Reba Taylor.

"I think a thriving downtown is always a good thing," Taylor said, noting it provides a more personal shopping experience.

Recreating a busy downtown climate might be a lost cause, Taylor said, with the current driving culture. But things could change somewhat if downtown Dryden had better parking, or at least signs to show people where public lots are located, Taylor said. A Chamber of Commerce or business association could be talking about that and related issues, she said, but interest doesn't seem to be there.

"I have tried on numerous occasions to get some sort of business association together," Taylor said. "I have never had any luck. ...We've brought people together a few times when collecting money for Christmas (for holiday decorations) in December, but nothing seems to last more than a year or two."

"Too bad... lost cause... interest doesn't seem to be there... never any luck... nothing seems to last more than a year or two."

Perhaps the Mayor was severely edited, as somehow there's no mention of a group that's been talking about the importance of downtown Dryden since its inception, and which has made amazing strides thanks to volunteers - the Dryden Community Center Cafe. I know she was at the first meeting, but maybe it's not quite the Chamber of Commerce she's looking for?

It's also strange to me that the Town of Dryden seems to be pushing hard to revive a walking culture in the Village of Dryden, while Taylor appears to think it's a lost cause. The Town's supported the Community Cafe with a grant, and continues to work on extending and maintaining the Jim Schug trail, which has easy access in the Village. Figuring out how to encourage TC3 students to walk to downtown without disrupting residents was also a key part of the conversation at the January Town Board meeting about the new TC3 dormitories. The Town Hall property itself seems likely, whatever development path the Board chooses, to have lots of pedestrian-oriented features. It's great that the Town is helping the Village as part of its broader responsibilities.

It's good that there are still a lot of people pushing hard to help downtown Dryden live up to its potential.

Posted by simon at February 21, 2008 12:53 PM in ,
Note on photos


Wendy Martin said:

Sometimes we all just need to look outside the box instead of focusing on the walls.

Fred said:

So is the Cafe intended to be an informal Dryden Chamber of Commerce? Or merely an example of grassroots community participation?

I was thinking of it as an example of grassroots community participation, a sign that maybe the Village of Dryden has more luck than its Mayor seems to acknowledge here.

It's not a Chamber of Commerce, certainly, but it's definitely working on making downtown Dryden a destination.

Fred said:

I suspect you are right. The difference between Ithaca and Dryden politicians is striking to me. Ithaca might be a little too goody-goody, but they are always optimistic and digging into the work.

Dryden politicians seem to be a bunch of Eeyores.

I should probably clarify that the "Fred" commenting here does not appear to be Fred Gentz, who is running for Village Trustee this spring.

Nathanael Nerode said:

Good, comfortable walking paths between TC3 and downtown sound like a key element.

Of course, if you *really* want to revive downtown, establish a frequent passenger train line from Ithaca to Dryden to Cortland, and put the station downtown. OK, so that's a totally impossible pipe dream, but anyway....