Why People are Staying Away from Salisbury’s Downtown and Why Merchants Open and Close After a Short Run

Posted on June 26, 2016

RFP Staff

♦ We are unlikely ever to hear what we are reporting here from Downtown Salisbury Inc. (D.S.I) who appears to be operating from an alternative reality in their attempts to spin their dangerous vacancy strewn ghost downtown as a vibrant and a happening place.

Why are people staying away in droves from the Downtown Salisbury?  Why do merchants and restaurants open and close with high-speed regularity?  The obvious:

The lack of safety: people get robbed, mugged, and shot down there even though the City of the Lie attempts to cover it over.  Talk to area residents and they will tell you they fear walking downtown.  The Salisbury Police, as most recognize, are woefully underpaid, understaffed, and leave when they find an opening elsewhere.  Even though few venues are open downtown after dark, people fear going there at night for good reason.  Lack of safety is a killer.

Lack of human traffic, either pedestrian or vehicular, most hours of the day. Lack of parking and lack of retail draws.  Retail mostly closes at dark.

• The extreme high cost of doing business downtown.  Expensive leases, paying the highest Municipal Services District Tax in North Carolina to support a South Main derelict hotel: the Empire, not open since 1963 when it closed as a flophouse. Now it is in dire need of costly abatement and demolition.  Add the cost of store pilferage and customers being driven away by panhandlers.  Keeping up with historic codes is costly. We haven’t even mentioned downtown’s vandalism costs. Get your building gang-tagged and spray painted up with graffiti or your expensive plate glass windows blown out by a cinder block and you lose a bundle. Your vehicle getting broken into (usually with your side-windows smashed in) is money consuming especially if it occurs once or twice a year.

No black businesses on Main Street since a Black convenience store shutdown a few years back.  This harms the Main Street’s ability to attract the city’s large Black community.

The false promise that the new Central Office would generate both shoppers and diners in the Downtown area.  RowanWorks Robert Van Geons’ alleged “study” proclaimed the Downtown Central Office would generate $5,000 per person per anum in power shopping and dining in Salisbury’s famished downtown.  Of course the Rowan Free Press nailed that claim as fallacious as soon as it was made.  We knew administrators would not stay in the building during the day–they were out in the field in the county all day long.  The staff, remaining behind, are largely “brown baggers” and microwave oven users.  The few who venture out for grub generally go no further than Richard’s BBQ next door or maybe as far as Hap’s on North Main.

The mammoth in the room that raises the costs of doing business and living in Downtown Salisbury: The Fibrant Debacle.  Your taxes and water bill rocket skyward because of Fibrant.  And it gulps freely from the city’s withering city services.

People don’t want to come to blighted and vacancy-filled areas. It bums them out. It’s like going to an Ebola ward. Most people don’t want to see suffering. It’s a downer to visit a hapless ghost town where you can see who is going to shut down next.

Nobody wants to bother with stores that close promptly at 5 p.m. People like to go to stores after work. When they see nothing is open after 5 p.m., they don’t bother coming back.

Let’s face it–nobody, but nobody wants to pay list price. That’s why everybody goes shopping on the internet or travels out of Rowan County to Concord Mills, Huntersville, Afton Ridge, Winston-Salem, Mooresville, or even Charlotte to do their purchasing. They are more liable to find what they want on the internet or in big box chain stores at inexpensive prices. Shoppes-at-the-Summit has helped some in stemming retail leakage out of the area.

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