Business Requests Council Step Up Downtown Efforts

SALISBURY – A member of the downtown business community approached the Salisbury City Council this week to express her frustration with the violence and her perception that there is a lack of effort in the area.

WMDT 47 News General Manager Kathleen McLain is disappointed with the brawl that broke out in the Plaza Gateway Building downtown and how the behavior is relating to the failing revival of the area.

On Nov. 20 around 12:30 a.m. a large fight erupted in front of the 18-and-under “Club Azul”. It was reported that hundreds of people were involved in many individual fights out in the street. As the police arrived, individuals dispersed.

Located in the downtown plaza, WMDT 47’s security cameras caught the fights on tape and the videos were posted on the news station’s website. According to McLain, by Monday morning there were 2,500 views and by that evening the number had grown to 4,500 views.

“If we can’t provide a safe environment downtown, or choose not to provide one, we will never be able to re-develop it, and we will never be able to move forward,” she said. “Safety has to become a primary issue … people are watching what the council is going to do. We need our elected officials to do something about this situation.”

McLain made a few suggestions of her own. First, she asked the council consider additional legislation in zoning for the downtown area.

“I consider this critical and I consider this urgent,” she said. “It is a fragile environment downtown. All it would take is one porn shop sitting down here and it would frustrate the efforts of so many people.”

Next McLain suggested a “short-term solution” by creating a curfew for young residents particularly on the weekend. She added that the only remaining retailer on the plaza has had to hire its own security guards to get through the holiday season and that customers are becoming scarce in the evening hours when it’s dark outside.

McLain also encouraged the city to align with experts in commercial real estate to assist the city in re-developing downtown.

“If you align yourself with someone who has done effective and profitable rehabbing, you will make a huge step towards bringing the downtown back to what it should be,” she said. “Vacant buildings encourage crime, we all know it. We need to reduce the numbers of vacant buildings, and we need to commission them to people that know how to make it work. We know one thing for sure, the little piece mealing of small businesses in this downtown area … they are usually gone in a year or two. They run through their savings, they run through their loans and they’re gone. You need a comprehensive plan and I would encourage you to pick the brains of people you already have in this market.”

McLain said her television station has been vandalized on multiple occasions, as well as her staff has been harassed, and it has gotten to the point where she needs to think of what is best for the business and its employees.

“I want the TV station to stay downtown,” she said. “I want it to be there and to grow with the downtown but I have to think about the safety of the people who work for me.”