The lights are much brighter there, you can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares, and go downtown where all the lights are bright, downtown.
When Petula Clark sang that song in the early 1960s, she probably had no idea that 30 years later city developers would give their right arm to get citizens to follow her advice and come downtown - even in Provo."Downtown is a changing, multifaceted center," said Gary Golightly, Provo Economic Development director. "It is no longer a major retail center. We need to recognize its different components and that it can be something bigger and better."
At this week's council study session, Golightly introduced a draft of Provo's approach to making downtown a place to invest and locate. The draft is a comprehensive development strategy for downtown from 1989 to 2000.
"This is not a blueprint," he said. "It's really food for thought - a motivator to help us start thinking why things are the way they are and the way to make changes."
Using a five-pronged approach, the proposal states that the city needs to address the major attitudes of perception, invest in infrastructure, realize downtown's functional and exploitable components, improve its image and sell downtown Provo.
Two perceptions the city must face are that downtown Provo is dying and that a single project will resurrect downtown. People believe downtown is dying when they see retail businesses move to shopping malls and centers leaving empty buildings and lots.
But Golightly said it is necessary to recognize that downtown Provo is the business, professional, financial, governmental and cultural center of the region - even if it's not the retail center of the community.
A single project will not resurrect downtown. For years Provo was waiting for a major retail project, but that is not going to happen and the city must take an incremental approach to build downtown.
Eliminating parking meters, investing in an overall parking master plan, increasing security and lighting and cleaning up vacant store fronts and alleys are a few needed steps.
"One thing stronger than words is action," Golightly said. "We must do what is necessary to incrementally move downtown Provo forward."
Council member Anagene Cottrell said more residents would be attracted to downtown if it were cleaner. "I'd be willing to put tax dollars into it. Even some store owners do not have enough pride to keep it clean."
The city should invest in its infrastructure by evaluating the physical condition of its streets, sidewalks, curbs, parking lots and landscaping, the proposal states.
"There is an obligation to maintain this publicly-owned property if we want private owners to maintain their property," Golightly said.
If Provo encourages dense development, it must also require parking garages, he said. The city must provide for some of the construction of public garages and/or other parts of the project.
Downtown Provo is essentially an employment function, he said. "Its economic impact for the future - through accommodating new jobs and businesses and enhancement of in-place investment - serves as a cornerstone for the future of downtown Provo."
Developers say that downtown is nothing more than a mirror image of its people, and to improve its image those that work or have a business downtown need to promote the area as they conduct their day-to-day business.
To sell downtown, "we must have a coherent vision of downtown revitalization," Golightly said.
The economic development office plans to recruit new stores to provide a balanced retail mix, convert unused space into housing, offices, entertainment, light manufacturing or cultural facilities and improve the competitiveness of existing business owners.
The office must also create attractive public/private financing mechanisms and use existing financial tools to maximum benefit.
The city will be placing emphasis on revitalization and occupation of the Kress and Penney's buildings.
Golightly said downtown Provo should be sold on its regional appeal, since it is the largest city between Salt Lake and Las Vegas and between Denver and the West Coast. Such a sales point may attract companies considering regional domination to locate in Provo.
Mayor Joe Jenkins agreed. "Downtown is really starting to turn around. It is going to be very successful."