Another View: Small businesses play part in midtown success

Special to The BeeOctober 14, 2012 

Elizabeth Studebaker is the executive director of the Midtown Business Association.

When it comes to the magical balance of urban amenities – homes, shops, offices, bars and restaurants – that create the fabric of a city, no Sacramento neighborhood has been more successful than midtown.

Visitors from the Bay Area, Washington and New York marvel at midtown.

They love the vibe, diversity, and beauty of a neighborhood that has managed the delicate balancing act found in Sacramento's premier urban district – a community where people line up when housing vacancies become available.

This envy has been earned. While it's popular to cite midtown as an "organic" example of how a community should mature and prosper, the word "organic" should not be a substitute for "accidental."

Two decades ago, midtown was a haven for drug dealers. The midtown we know today was built by design and hard work, with partnerships among the city, business leaders and residents.

The balance of midtown has been the subject of two "Conversation" pieces by Associate Editor Foon Rhee, including "Is the Midtown party out of control?" (Forum, Oct. 7.)

While I appreciate the attention drawn to midtown, the articles carried a near-complete absence of voices from midtown devotees who live in the neighborhood and have invested time, energy and often their life savings to start a business.

Those voices – small, local business owners who have built popular establishments, plus the voices of countless residents who love our midtown businesses – are missing.

Some of this is our fault. Under attack from a handful of critics, many business operators in midtown stay silent. They don't want to fight with neighbors or the media. They simply want to run successful businesses that help midtown prosper.

The positive impact of midtown's small-business community is significant.

Restaurants and bars in midtown create the urban vibe that gives midtown its rich flavor. And they create jobs – thousands of them – for Sacramentans. Midtown's businesses pay taxes on sales, property, and income that generate millions of dollars for our city, county and state.

As Rhee notes, the balance of midtown is critical. Midtown needs diversity to maintain the status as Sacramento's most emulated urban community. It needs coffee shops and late-night gathering places.

It doesn't need groups squaring off against each other, tearing apart midtown's fabric. Midtown must work together, productively.

While we may have different views of how midtown should flourish, this much is clear: Midtown's vibrancy and diversity are why other places wish they were more like midtown.

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