October 15, 2013 10:11:02 AM
The Dispatch generally frowns upon stealing in every form.
But we are prepared to make an exception in the case of what will be happening in Natchez next month.
The folks in downtown Natchez have hit upon what we believe is a great idea.
In November, the city of Natchez, working with partners in state and local government and its business community, will hold an open house, showcasing 12 vacant storefronts on two of its downtown streets.
The concept of an open house is, of course, nothing new. Realtors routinely host open houses for home listings.
But the idea of hosting open houses in multiple vacant storefronts at a single time is, as far as we know, a novel idea.
It should be an excellent opportunity for the aspiring entrepreneur or even an established business to "kick the tires" of these buildings. These open houses will be held in conjunction with events that are scheduled for downtown to capitalize on the influx on visitors.
There are a lot of similarities between Natchez and Columbus. Both feature historic downtowns that have a charm not found in other parts of the city. In both, downtown is the focal point of the city. A vibrant downtown where storefronts are filled and business is brisk, creates a positive atmosphere that extends far beyond the area. Conversely, a downtown dotted with vacant buildings undermines confidence and casts the city in an unfavorable light.
We have in Columbus an active and successful Main Street Association, which works very diligently in making our downtown an appealing place to work and shop. But, like Natchez, those efforts are undermined when storefronts remain vacant for extended amounts of time.
We believe an open house such as the one Natchez is planning could be one more tool in addressing that problem.
In Natchez, the Mississippi Development Authority is working with the city, its Main Street association, Alcorn State University and other groups in putting their downtown storefronts in the spotlight in what they are calling a "Possibilities Tour."
There is no reason that Columbus, Starkville and West Point could not take this idea and run with it, too.
Natchez has much to offer and has devised a new approach to showcase its appeal.
Our communities have similar appeal. Let's steal this idea.