From today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
Mike Yates says downtown Pullman needs a vision, one that will provide a long-term plan and encourage vibrancy and growth.
He hopes the newly formed Downtown Pullman Business Development Association helps accomplish that goal.
The association was formed about a month ago in response to the city planning commission's recommendation for code changes to downtown parking, Yates said.
Yates, who owns several commercial and residential properties downtown, said those changes could potentially discourage or restrict new business and residential growth in Pullman's downtown district. Most downtown business owners agree.
"It was an overwhelming agreement that people don't believe right now is the time for any restrictions on development," Yates said.
The association wants to foster new business and residential development, along with the revitalization of downtown, Yates said.
"It takes residential living, entrepreneurs and customers to make all of that happen," he said. "If any one of those don't happen you have a break in the chain."
Justin Rogers, who owns H and R Development in downtown Pullman, has participated in the formation of the association. He said a long-term plan that will dictate the direction of downtown is needed.
"The key is we feel like downtown really needs a solid vision and we need a more comprehensive, cohesive plan to reach that vision," Rogers said. "Then it boils down to, is there consensus on the vision? And then from there it is how you bring that vision to reality."
Yates sees two specific needs for downtown Pullman: more people and more business.
"The fuel for growth in a small business is customers," he added. "It's people walking downtown morning, noon and night."
One way to attract shoppers downtown is to have more residential units available for people to live downtown, Yates said.
"Once you get people living downtown you are going to have people shopping downtown," he said. "Once you do that then you have more entrepreneurs looking to locate their businesses downtown."
Yates said a vibrant downtown will help the city and county's larger employers like Washington State University and Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories recruit new employees.
"All of these people that come to Pullman, the thing that is on their mind is 'what does Pullman have to offer?' " he said.
Both Yates and Rogers want to hear what other members of the community envision.
"I think we need a good, broad cross section of people in Pullman that really want to see downtown do well and get all kinds of ideas and thoughts together," Rogers said.
Yates and Rogers said there is a need for an official who would more or less act as the area's business manager.
"We need someone to run the business of downtown," Yates said.
Rogers said he would like to see the city step up and create the position.
"That's what we are missing right now," Rogers said. "The city needs to take the lead in that role."
Charlene Jasper, Daily Grind owner and chairwoman of the chamber of commerce's Downtown Pullman Business Development Committee, said she feels the work of people like Yates will make downtown Pullman more attractive to everyone.
"I think we are headed in the right direction," Jasper said. "It takes a few people with a lot of enthusiasm.
"These are people with a vision who believe in the community and want to see it more vital."
Rogers hopes that enthusiasm pays off.
"It would be neat to be able to look back 10 years from now and say that effort was really worth it," Rogers said.