Letter: Myths of a ‘bustling’ downtown

To the Editor:
Things are repeated so often, we all begin to accept them as gospel truths. “We are an arts destination. They are flocking to our beautiful downtown. The economic development is everywhere.” Let’s look at that one.
We opened the Playhouse. Restaurants opened. Restaurants closed. We opened The Prospector. Restaurants opened. Restaurants closed. We opened ACT. We now hear The Village Tavern on Main Street has closed.
If this myth were true, our downtown would be bustling with zero vacancies. However, it is not. Even if it were bustling, how exactly would we benefit from that? They tell us a bustling downtown is proof of economic development. I define economic development as growth in the tax base. Has our certification as an arts destination increased our tax base? When the arts-goers flock to our restaurants, do we get a portion of the sales taxes the restaurants collect? No, we do not. Do we get more property taxes from the landlords of those restaurants? Not really. Do we get income taxes from the employees of those restaurants? No, we do not. We do not get any economic benefit from the arts.
However, we get costs. We spent a million dollars getting the area around the ACT Theater and neighboring Philip Johnson Building ready so that we could give each of them a long-term lease of a dollar a year. Then we say the town is so crowded we need to build a new parking lot for more than half a million dollars while being afraid to charge anyone who uses it.
Do not get me wrong. The ACT Theater is great. I saw Evita. It was spectacular. The place is a great amenity of the town, but it is not economic development.
Ed Tyrrell
Pond Road, Feb. 4
Editor’s note: The Village Tavern plans to reopen at the end of the month.