As a downtown property owner and partner in a former downtown business, I am very concerned about the rights of owners of businesses and property.
In the late 1980s the heart of downtown Walla Walla was in desperate need of help. Buildings were vacant and beginning to deteriorate.
Rent was so low that property owners were fortunate to pay the taxes and insurance. It also befell the property owners to absorb the cost of needed repairs and upgrades.
A few citizens recognized the need to do something before the heart died. They started the organization that later was the Walla Walla Main Street and now Downtown Walla Walla Foundation. This concerned group, including design committee, grew to hundreds who didn't want to see the downtown area deteriorate. Over the next few years many residents came together with a vision of how to revitalize downtown Walla Walla.
Property owners and the design committee forged ahead with plans to restore the facades of the historic buildings downtown. Two of the first buildings to be restored were Pioneer Title and Falkenbergs. Both of the owners spent a good deal of money, along with paying their LID assessments, to start the beautification of downtown.
Since that time, many other property owners have been able to establish rents that allowed them to reroof their buildings, improve or install new heating and air conditioning systems, rewire and install new plumbing to comply with the new ADA and energy code requirements.
Facades have been slowly returned to their original beauty. The results have been impressive. A number of state and national awards were won by our attractive downtown. We now see Main Street and adjoining side streets filled with parked vehicles even on Saturdays and Sundays.
Rights of property owners are a high priority. We need to be mindful of our neighbors, how hard they have worked, and how many dollars have been invested in downtown.
Although the new sign is appealing, I do not feel that it is in line with the intent of the majority of downtown property owners. It is ironic that this first blemish is next to and across the street from the first major investments that started the rebuilding of the downtown facades.
I hope that history doesn't repeat itself with the downtown slowly dying away. We have a mall that is ruined due to lack of planning, organization and funds. We need to keep our downtown strong and unified. This is done by businesses and property owners working together, mindful of the big picture not just their personal goals.