The overlooked importance of Roosevelt Road

Opinion

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Dave Goetz

The signs of progress were all over my car and lawn mower. The dust created when the workers making a new alley showed up on a Saturday to pre-cut my garage apron covered both. Even though my garage door was closed the immense amount of dust found its way in thru the minute openings. A car wash for my ride and a can of starter fluid for my lawnmower later and I was good to go, my little investment in the ongoing infrastructure project going on in town.

I was a little surprised when I got the notice that my alley was going to be reconstructed. I hadn't noted any problems with it, but being on the end, it is rare that I travel the full length. The end result
will be positive and my seven-dollar
investment and the inconvenience of
fighting for overnight parking on my block during the construction is a small price to pay.

All this alley activity as well as the work being done on Circle Avenue between the bridge and Roosevelt Road is being
financed primarily by the increase in sales tax, passed by referendum in the fall of 2004.Remarkable what a one-quarter of one percent increase in the sales tax can buy. Even more remarkable, this was one of the few major issues that the council agreed on during the past three years of political upheaval.

I'm a numbers guy. I like to see data in front of me so that I can analyze it and draw my conclusions. When topics are talked about in the abstract I can get lost fairly quickly. So it would be nice if I could see exactly what businesses are generating this sales tax revenue.

The idea is not to make some businesses feel more important than others just because they generate more sales tax revenue. A mix of businesses is good for the village. However, for planning purposes it would be helpful to understand what types of businesses bring in what levels of revenue, particularly if the village makes some sort of concessions to the business to locate in Forest Park.

Last Tuesday there was a panel discussion on teardowns hosted by CUinFP and moderated by Bob Cox. During the Q & A portion of the evening, one of the panel members stated that while all sales tax is important for municipalities, certain types of businesses have a much greater impact on the fiscal health of cities than others. She suggested that while the shops and restaurants that line Madison Street are nice looking and create a unique impression that is vital to the village, the car dealers and the Wal-Marts of the world are the true sales tax juggernaughts. I have a feeling that she is right, but to what extent we won't know without the data.

Once again though, it highlights the importance of the businesses on Roosevelt Road to the income stream of the village. Taking what may be not too educated of a guess, I believe the two car dealers, Wal-Mart, Kmart, Ultra Foods and Walgreens combined bring in two to three times the revenue of all other businesses in town. While bit-by-bit the stores fronts in the mall are filling up, there still seems to be no overall plan or great attention for the Roosevelt Road corridor.

As most people know, the Naval Reserve Center lies along this economic corridor. Most communities fight pretty hard to keep military installations, to preserve the economic shot in the arm that they provide. We would be better off if it left. A combined effort by all our council members, combined with our state and federal representatives, to see the facility moved to another location would be a logical first step. I don't know what the Comprehensive Plan suggested for that spot as I dumped my copy into the waste can of irrelevance several months ago. Common sense though says a "big box" store would be ideal.

I know wish lists are easy to make, and sometimes hard to realize. Enticing a name retailer to locate in Forest Park will no doubt require some incentives. All the more reason to get hard data on how much businesses actually contribute to the local economy. A discussion and debate based on historical data will be much more productive than one based on guesswork or the projections of a retailer.

It would be nice to see Roosevelt Road discussed in the upcoming election season as much as Madison Street will be. It would be nice to hear as many lot of 'hmmms' and 'what ifs' for Roosevelt Road as 'ooohs' and 'aahhs' for Madison Street.

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