Last Friday, my wife and I were walking down Main Street, downtown, on our way to Matinee for a beer. As we walked along the 600 Block, I couldn’t help but feel as if something was missing… lights. Seeing that it was a Friday night, and no theatrical productions were playing, the street looked pretty dead, which I felt was unfortunate, because I believe that there is a missed opportunity at hand.
Back in the day, when I owned a retail shop on Elmwood Avenue, I always made sure that my shop windows were brightly illuminated at night, when the business was closed. I did that for a couple of reasons. I wanted passersby to notice my storefront, hopefully enticing them to come back when it was open. I also felt that I was doing my part to make Elmwood Avenue look spectacular at night, when people were driving by, or walking by on their way to eat and drink. And it always worked – customers would always stop in (or call), saying that they had spotted something in the window at night.
Getting back to the 600 Black of Main Street, I have wondered on more than one occasion, why everything looks so bleak when the theaters are not open. I know that there are electric bills to consider, but I would think that the promotional aspect would outweigh any additional costs. I’m not talking about switching every light on, I’m talking more about the strategic signage, and maybe some of the theatrical bulb lights – even if they were on a low setting. Take Bijou Grille for example. When the place isn’t open, every light is off. At least leave the red glowing Bijou Grille sign illuminated (lead image), to broadcast that the restaurant is not shuttered (it’s simply not open on that day, or at that time). It would help to bring some life to the street. There’s also a safety factor to consider. The more lights, the safer people feel.
The same thing applies for the theaters – the Alleyway Theatre sign has sensational red lettering that would look so nice if it was lit up at night. It’s not as if people will get the wrong message, and say, “Hey! It’s open. Let’s go see a show.” That’s not how it happens with theater productions. People plan ahead. But by lighting up the sign, it signals that the theater company is “alive and well”, and more people will take notice. It’s also about creating ambiance on the street. No one wants to walk down a Main Street that looks shuttered (even when there’s not much going on).
Now that Main Street is re-energized thanks in part to the Cars Sharing Main Street initiative, there are a lot more people walking around (and driving around). It’s time to make it look like the street is alive, even when it’s not. With more bars and restaurants open downtown (including EXPO Market, which was open when I took the rest of these photos), people want to do some sightseeing as they walk about. With so many signs and lights switched off, the street doesn’t look nearly as inviting as it could. With a little bit of lighting, the appearance of Main Street would drastically change, no matter the day, the hour, or the season.