Downtown ordeal nearly over

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By Rich Bauer, Managing Editor

A little more than a year after workers dug up the first section of Gallatin Street, there’s light at the end of the tunnel or, more specifically, light at the east end of Vandalia’s downtown business district.

The 400 block of Gallatin Street was opened to traffic on Tuesday afternoon, and city officials say the 300 block – the final block of the downtown enhancement project – could be opened up as early as Friday.

Indeed, the project has not been completed pain-free, particularly for those whose livelihoods depend on their Gallatin Street businesses.

We knew going in that there would be difficulties, but also knew that, in the end, our downtown – and our community – would be better off for the work being done. And it’s going to be completed ahead of schedule.

Vandalia, like all small communities impacted negatively by the big box stores that locate away from the main business districts, will have to continue its efforts to reshape its downtown. The support of Vandalia Main Street, with projects such as Paint the Town, will be vital in the coming months and years.

The downtown enhancement project is a cornerstone in that effort.

As we praise those merchants who struggled through the winter months with limited customer traffic, we hope that those individuals looking to start a new business or relocate to a new home consider our downtown business district.

Of course, our downtown will never be what it was 30, 40 or 50 years ago. It can, however, be a vital shopping district that continues to serve both local residents and those who come here to visit the Vandalia Statehouse and other tourist attractions in the downtown area.

Some naysayers continue to say that the downtown project was a waste of time and money. But, the reality is, had mayors Sandra Leidner and Rick Gottman not had the foresight and drive to get the work done, we’d be faced with a decaying business district (both on the surface and below-ground) that would hamper any efforts to draw new residents, businesses or industry to our community.