Mayor Kenny Evans recently dubbed Main Street the heart of Payson. However, with its poor visibility from the highway, stretches of empty storefronts and lack of retail shops, that heartbeat is irregular, even verging on a heart attack some say.
What’s needed is an overhaul or in other words — a triple bypass.
“The only thing consistent about Main Street is its inconsistency,” said Ken Volz, executive director of the Northern Gila County Economic Development Corporation, at Thursday’s Business Buzz luncheon.
“I know some people do not want to hear this, but Main Street is not what it used to be,” he added.
One of the streets main problems is its location away from Highway 87. The reason most people drive down the street is to get to Green Valley Park. They end up passing the few stores and galleries open because they are spread out from one another.
“It is too disjointed,” he said.
Christina Bollier, co-owner of Vita Mart agreed.
“If you come there to go shopping, you will be in for a long walk,” she said.
The street, nearly a mile long and with stores spread out randomly throughout, can discourage tourists and residents from stopping to shop.
However, Angela Dye, president of A Dye Design and creator of the Main Street Vision and townwide landscaping signage master plan, said there is a solution.
In her Main Street proposal, Dye broke the street down into manageable 500-foot stretches or “districts.” These include historic and entertainment districts where like businesses are clustered. Under this design, people can park and walk to like stores grouped together.
“It is hard to create a sense of place when things are spread out,” she said. “And you can’t create it just by issuing regulations.”
This isn’t the first time Main Street’s flaws have been discussed. Dye worked on the Main Street plan for two years and presented her findings in June to the Payson Town Council.
In her plan, Dye said the street is filled with inconsistent design and signage. At the time,, she urged the council to consider adopting a consistent set of standards that would narrow the street and slow traffic, rationalize signage, plant trees, enforce building codes and embrace sidewalks and street front activities.
Dye said visitors want to feel like a community is proud of where they live. If Main Street is revitalized and revamped by business owners and town officials, visitors will follow. The final issue Bollier sees outside of design and location, is the businesses themselves, which vary wildly from a second-hand store to a dentist to auto repair.
“People don’t come to Payson to go to an architect or physical therapy space,” Bollier said referring to the new construction at 405 W. Main St.
Payson Physical Therapy and Hinshaw Associates Architecture and Planning moved into the space earlier this year and are finalists in the Arizona Main Street competition.
“I think Main Street could be great if we had more retail,” she said, and more restaurants.
Bollier said the town could also to do a better job of advertising Payson’s proximity to the Valley to attract visitors.
Whenever Bollier said she talks to people in Phoenix, they have no idea where Payson is, even though it is only an hour away.
“I realized no one knows where we are,” she said. “We (Bollier and her husband B.J.) have a vested interest in Payson and we want to see Payson thrive.”