In 1994, James Howard Kunstler published The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America's Man-Made Landscape. In the book, Kunstler traced America's evolution from a nation of Main Streets and coherent communities to a land where every place is like no place in particular.
In the twenty years since Kunstler's book came out, although the creation of "nowheres" continues unabated, an appreciation of traditional main streets has developed. Last Thursday night, the Common Council Economic Development Committee initiated a conversation about legislation to ban chain or "formula" stores from Hudson. Such bans are a growing trend among cities that pride themselves in their historic architecture and their unique character.
Several things are motivating this initiative. There is an interest in protecting the historic architecture of Hudson from the detracting impact of the cookie-cutter design of chain stores. There is also concern about protecting the unique and organic quality of Hudson, which has made it a destination. The action is also motivated by the desire to protect local businesses and the local economy. Committee member John Friedman (Third Ward) made the point that money spent at a chain store leaves the community, whereas money spent at a locally owned business stays in the community. Another motivation is the desire to curb the rise of rents on commercial spaces. Friedman suggested that knowing they could not rent to Starbucks or Pottery Barn would have the effect of limiting the expectations of building owners.
Audience member Steve Dunn insisted there needed to be a "carve out" for a supermarket. Friedman suggested that an exception might be made for "businesses that are underrepresented or have a low profit margin," noting that the profit margin for supermarkets is 2 percent. The discussion of supermarkets led to a suggestion by Friedman that it might be possible to create "a food oasis within a food desert" by working out a way to distribute food from supermarkets in the city. One possibility he offered was convincing ShopRite, which has a home delivery service, to make multiple deliveries at one time to a centralized place in Hudson, without requiring minimum orders and presumably with no or reduced delivery charges.
Friedman, who has declared on several occasions that 2017 will be his last year on the Council, said he was willing to take on the task of drafting the legislation and "do all the work," with the goal of getting the legislation adopted in the next year. He told his colleagues on the Economic Development Committee, "The identity of Hudson is worth preserving," noting that "the strength of Hudson is its organic quality."
COPYRIGHT 2016 CAROLE OSTERINK