The Bryan Times,
I have some thoughts regarding the proposed vacant buildings/storefronts ordinance. As a responsible commercial property owner, I am at a loss trying to understand what’s happening. The current local economic conditions coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic makes successful business ownership difficult. How can anyone think fining and threatening a property owner will solve Bryan’s vacant building problem? Moreover, why should a responsible property owner be required to go to the government to seek some sort of temporary forgiveness and pay a fee or fine every 90 days? What qualifies some government official to sit in judgement?
I currently have a vacant storefront located on West High Street. I have been trying to find a quality tenant for several years. I have found this to be extremely difficult. Oh, I could have rented several times to less desirable businesses. Yet doing so would ruin my building and make it less desirable for my remaining valuable tenants. This proposed ordinance may make me change my thinking. I could start feeling like my city government isn’t my friend. I might be forced to lower my standards under threat of fine or incarceration. What kind of message will be sent to people who may want to invest in Bryan?
In my opinion, the main cause of vacant storefronts is the imbalance of supply versus demand. Bryan’s economic “pie” has shrunk dramaticlaly over the past several years. I did a rough calculation about how much less money is circulating in Williams County. It’s an incredible figure. This is the disease we are confronted with. In addition, the big box store located south of downtown and Amazon has sucked up most of the retail money. We simply have too many storefronts for the economic opportunities at hand. I believe the proposed vacant building ordinance will only treat the symptoms and not the disease. To me the vacant storefront problem is not so much irresponsible ownership, rather it’s lack of business capital or opportunities. We should be doing everything possible to say to the world Bryan is a friendly place for business.
Looking back, I believe Bryan would probably not have the downtown vacant building problem is the city government had invested in the downtown instead of building the current city government building on the east edge of town. I hope they do not compound the problem.
Ray W. Connin