"I still get the comment, 'really, I didn't know there were people over there at all,'" she said. "People really should drive by and pay attention, because we are over there working."
Visibility will continue to be an issue until the campus fills more space.
"Had it not been for the recession we probably would be there now," Hartsell said, but once the project and related businesses reach "critical mass," investment will balloon in the area.
Critical mass has become a constant theme in discussions about the future of
Planning director Krider said the city needs to focus not only on the Research Campus, but on the downtown many residents know as "
Interest in the downtown district has risen from "rock bottom," about five years ago, he said. Last year saw several businesses move into the area, as opposed to a net loss of businesses before that.
"It just seems to be that slowly but surely there's a little bit more of a buzz," he said.
Downtown is mostly empty, a far cry from its heyday as a community center full of storefronts.
It thrived off the thousands of workers who shopped there after work hours and during breaks.
With the development of the Research Campus, the area needs a new variety of businesses to serve both campus staff and the surrounding community, Krider said.
The problem, he said, is only about 1,500 people work in the greater downtown area of
"From an economic sort of strategic point of view, we don't have enough people here working here to say that the Village or
"We've got to have something happen to this downtown to make it as vital as we can," McCombs said. "I'm looking forward to any kind of plan of action that we can come up with."
Krider, other city staff members and private organizations like
The city has done a market study to test the viability of apartments downtown, which would add to the liveliness of downtown both during the day and at night.
Krider said the real issue is there are two cities in
"So the new
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