Center City asks residents for downtown business advice

A local neighborhood organization will ask residents to visit downtown Springfield early next month and use sidewalk chalk to pitch ideas for new businesses.

Residents will be asked to use the chalk and write suggestions for the kinds of businesses and services they’d like to see downtown, said Bill Harless, executive director of the Center City Association. The organization promotes events and tries to attract business downtown.

The event will take place from 7-9 p.m. at the City Hall Plaza during the First Friday event Sept. 5. The city and Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce are also helping promote the event. Local officials will keep track of the suggestions written on the plaza pavement and use the info to get a better idea of what residents think of downtown, Harless said. Residents just need to look for the orange First Friday banner downtown to find the location.

Area residents who are thinking of starting their own business could ideally benefit from knowing what residents want as well, Harless said. Center City can then help by helping find potential business locations and setting up meeting with local banks.

“Our ultimate goal is it generates interest in an individual who lives in the area and might want to open a business,” Harless said.

He got the idea after attending a similar event in downtown Denver, Colo.

Local business leaders have some ideas of what should happen downtown, said Chris Schutte, director of marketing and the convention and visitor’s bureau for the chamber. But the event next month will give residents a chance to make suggestions of their own.

The First Friday events also allow residents to learn more about the businesses and activities downtown already offers, Schutte said.

“It’s giving people that perception that there is activity downtown,” Schutte said.