To the Editor,
After living away for a couple of decades I returned to this area in 2010 to raise my son. I had grown up here, the rest of my family living and dying here, the reputation for good schools and the revitalization of downtown Mount Airy since I previously lived here were major considerations when I made a conscious decision to return.
And while I don’t live within the city limits and, therefore, have no vote, I do spend my money here, as do a lot of others. I am very interested in what happens to the downtown area because this is where I live. This is where I would also like to be able to play. However, that’s extremely difficult to do with a dearth of restaurants and other activities, especially in winter.
That said, I think restoring the Spencer’s property is a fabulous idea. Historic, old buildings exude a charm and character that cannot be replicated and many cities and small towns across this country are realizing this. Charleston, West Virginia, population around 50K, restored their old train depot. It is now a farmer’s market indoors and out seasonally, full restaurant. Jerome, Arizona, population around 500, was a relative ghost town before artists started moving there to hone their crafts and it is now a thriving little community.
There is no reason that can’t be experienced here but, like all things in life, there is no free lunch. Mount Airy is in a prime location to attract visitors. It’s been proven by all the visitors to “Mayberry.” It’s wonderful how marketing that has helped with the revitalization of this downtown. But I fear that the main source of that interest will soon be dead and gone. Younger generations, even if aware of The Andy Griffith Show, will not travel here for that as older folks do now.
Mount Airy has a diamond in the rough and needs to start polishing instead of just talking about it. A theater/entertainment complex, hotel, apartments…it’s all great. But there must be action, not just words. Nothing will ever have the chance to make money if it stays on the drawing board.
Creative thinking, not just money thrown at “specialists,” might help. Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, which draws many tourists in summer, features a cover band once a month in their local theater. When the schedule of performances was printed in April, three of the summer’s shows were already sold out. People around here love arts and entertainment. We would love to be able to go downtown instead of traveling to Winston-Salem and further to find it. And, no. I don’t want it to be on 601 which is nothing but chains and horrible traffic for a mile.
No free lunches. Yes, city property taxes did go up. First responders and city employees got a raise after quite a while without one. Good for them. Instead of complaining now, remember the tax reductions you’ve received over the years. Benefits and services don’t come without costs. Think progressive and moving forward. I’m helping all I can and I know many others who do as well. We may not live in the city limits but we’re not all country bumpkins lamenting about why can’t everything remain the same.