Close your eyes for a moment and visualize a mental picture of Payson. What do you see?
And what does someone coming to Payson for the first time see?
What makes Payson special is hard to see at first glance. The community reveals itself slowly, but first impressions are confusing.
For the newcomer or the tourist, it's hard to get a clear picture of this town. Though the retail economy is thriving up and down the Beeline, there is no place to rest the eye. There is no universal focal point that says, "Payson," and therein is the importance of Main Street.
An Arizona Department of Revenue study showed the top source of sales tax revenue in Payson comes from the retail trade -- bringing in $1.8 million dollars in 2005, not counting December.
From that figure, the future of Payson appears to be in tourism and the success of our retail offerings.
Towns across the United States are waking up to the damage that was done by building large shopping centers on the outskirts of town and ignoring withering downtowns.
Through a purposeful combination of private and public partnerships, cities and towns have focused their energy in revitalizing Main Streets.
In many ways, it is a return to the past and to something that has been lost over the decades as we spend more and more time in our cars.
The "Main Street Approach" has worked for places like Denver, Colo., where a once run-down part of the city was revitalized into what is now the popular, thriving 16th Street Mall.
A similar approach has also worked in small towns like Burlington and Corning, Iowa.
The reason Main Street revitalization often fails is that it is a slow process. People become impatient because they don't "see it working" right away.
In order for our Main Street to become what it needs to be, we must consider the look of the buildings and the message they send. We must consider the kind of businesses that we want at the center of our community, and we must be honest with ourselves about when, why and how Main Street got to its current state.
Expensive improvements alone do not create a thriving downtown.
We would like to see a Main Street that combines residential and retail. We would like to see a Main Street that builds our community by giving us opportunities to socialize -- a Main Street full of coffee shops, bookstores and restaurants. The benefits from these focused efforts return to the community in tourist dollars and quality of life for residents.
Just as much as it is about the job market, affordable housing and nearby outdoor recreational opportunities, quality of life in any town is made up of small things -- like a stroll along Main Street to get coffee and a newspaper in the morning.
For that reason, we support the efforts of the Main Street Program and projects like the Main Street Depot on the drawing board at Amon Builders.
No matter how affordable or convenient our Wal-Mart may be, it's not what we want people to remember about Payson.