09 January 2019
[MBM] - What's the Problem With the Square? 1st Report on Issues & Challenges Facing Downtown Covington
Over the last few months, this writer has been following closely developments & potential problems facing the Historic Covington Square & her downtown merchants & business owners.
Please know that this is not going to be a "hit piece" or another installment in the "Blame Game" chronicles, but rather an open & honest look at what is going on, the real problems & issues being faced, and thoughts on practical & possible solutions. In this piece, dear readers, I'm wearing my Public Advocate cap as much as I am my Citizen-Journalist one.
So let's get into it.
In the last three months, four businesses on the Square have closed. Word on the street is that there are no less than five businesses either actively or quietly for sale. While both the cities of Monroe & Conyers, on either side of the home city, seem to be thriving with their downtown business districts, Covington seems to be fading. As one local resident put it, to paraphrase, it seems like things are slipping away...
And please also know that I'm not here to play the "Doom & Gloom" game, either; or, as it were, that the sky is falling. But for me, I go back to the fall of 2016, when it seemed like we were on fire & the sky was the limit. And to see where we are now, compared to then. Well, frankly, my friends, it's kind of disheartening to me.
What possible problematic issue has gotten the most volume these last couple of years? Obviously, that would be when the Square has been closed for filming or for special events. And no doubt, the Witches Night Out dust-up was actually one of the most read stories at TPC last year; however, I can't help but to think that that's an easy target. While certainly the city kind of got carried away last year with filming & closing the Square for special events, a point, off the record, that was ceded by a person with the city, those are just the flash bangs that always bring extra attention. As several have mentioned, the biggest problems facing the Square are more the systemic, everyday problems.
After having spoken with five different Square merchants the past few weeks, a definitive theme of concerns have emerged. Let's go with some bullet points.
- TRAFFIC! It's a mess. So much so that two different people whose opinions I highly value with matters such as these think that the time has come to bring back the traffic lights on the Covington Square. At this point...maybe so. The city has made it abundantly clear, at least from my vantage point, that they will NEVER adjust the lights at either the Elm & Floyd or Usher & Pace intersections (the intersections one block off the Square that feed into it & set the flow), a solution that WILL work to greatly help things in my opinion, then yes - BRING BACK THE TRAFFIC LIGHTS at Floyd & Pace, as well as Washington & Monticello.
- Traffic, Pt II. Whereas the previous point spoke more to traffic flow, a big concern for many merchants - purportedly echoed by their patrons - is kind of the opposite problem. The fact that you can't back up once you're parked at the Square. I've experienced that firsthand, as I know many of you have as well.
- Traffic, Pt III. And this ties into the previous point, people do NOT know how the Square works. It's the C-town 500 out there with that inner lane. We need to start a PSA on getting folks trained up on how the drive on the Covington Square.
- Parking. Perhaps the biggest issue with parking is the numerous Square merchants & employees who park on the Square, sometimes for as long as 8 to 10 hours, taking away parking opportunities from patrons, shoppers & visitors. It's a problem. Something needs to get figured out there as well.
And this is without getting into the myriad of issues related to the concerns & complaints that many have with the City of Covington, the Chamber of Commerce & - most of all - Main Street Covington. That'll have to be another story for another time.
To close, it's easy to point out the problems, isn't it? The big thing is coming up with the solutions. It's become agonizingly clear that neither the city, nor the other governmental stakeholders involved, have the ability or inclination to fix things, so it will fall on the us - the People. I've got some theories & ideas, as do several of the merchants I've been in contact with. Do you? I'd sure like to hear from you. Shoot be an email at: MarshallMcCart@gmail.com or shoot me a text at: 678.712.8652
Let's figure this thing out. Together.
Thanks for reading. Until next time.
- M.B. McCart, Editor