Once the retail center of the area, Grenada’s downtown began to languish in the 1960s. As Interstate 55 was completed and Walmart arrived, retail traffic began moving out and downtown was left with many underused or vacant buildings and no people. Compounding those issues, common to many communities, was the declining employment in the industrial sector as various plants were shrinking. Grenada was left with what countless other cities have faced, a dying downtown, and has yet to form a successful approach to bringing new life to an area that has the potential to be very attractive and again an asset to the community.
To address this challenge, Grenada needs to reimagine its downtown and remake the area by developing a master plan to create an atmosphere conducive to office, residential, specialty retail, educational, entertainment and arts related activities. Downtown renaissance may well take several decades to achieve, and must be seen as both an intentional and an evolutionary process.
The first and most important step in changing downtown’s image requires development of a streetscape plan to develop an integrated feel to a defined area, including a clear boundary, perhaps with decorative gateways and light fixtures as well as strategically located parking, trees, parks and play areas. With a new image and identified boundaries in place, clear indicators of public and private interest in downtown are needed, and the public sector needs to help provide the impetus for private investment. The completed renovation of the Masonic Temple, for example, could become a visible manifestation of Grenada’s seriousness of purpose and commitment to the future of downtown.
A master plan for downtown renaissance would lay out a new vision, for example: “by the year 2020, Grenada will again have a thriving downtown which is recognized regionally as an example of a vibrant community in which to live, work, and play, and which serves in itself as an attraction for visitors from near and far.” Public investment will need to be clear, as will a firm commitment to a long term process not swayed by politics. With such a commitment and a master plan in place, buildings can begin to be renovated and new buildings constructed.
Through successful public/private partnerships, Grenada can create strong anchors throughout downtown. The Masonic Temple, for example, could serve as the nucleus of the Keeton Center for the Performing Arts, a performing arts complex that could ultimately incorporate other buildings and add dramatic new architecture and landscaping. The Square could be rechristened Grenada Market Square, and become a mixed-use project of shops, restaurants, residential housing, and offices following a deliberate plan to build traffic, excitement, and revenue for what is now a stagnant area.
Downtown’s success requires a commitment by public and private partners to sustain an environment which creates dynamic opportunities for office, entertainment, dining, residential and retail activities. Once several anchors such as the Keeton Center, a handful of specialty retail stores, and a restaurant or two are established, the plan can move outward toward better use of other resources such as the river, the train station, and other landmarks.
The desired result is the creation of attractive investment opportunities and the establishment of enduring public and private relationships that result in mixed-use renovations and new construction, meticulously renovated historic buildings, and residential units of multiple types.