Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A Lot Is for Sale in Downtown Green Bay

Shoppers could always count on finding stuff to buy in downtown Green Bay when I was growing up there. The giant Port Plaza Mall had book stores, music shops, video arcades, restaurants, and a ton of clothing stores. The grand old Prange's (Green Bay's locally owned version of Macy's or Marshall Field's) offered upscale shopping and was later replaced by Younkers and Boston Store. The mall was ringed by the classic shops and offices you'd find in any downtown: barber shops, piano stores, luggage stores, magazine shops, banks, etc.

On my visit to Green Bay last week, I walked downtown and saw there was still a lot of stuff for sale, such as, well, downtown. The mall is closed and partly demolished. "For Sale" signs are to be found on almost every block, and many buildings were empty or at least looked deserted.

The signs of desertion were somewhat misleading. Green Bay isn't one of those dried-up rust-belt cities that started dying out in the 1970s and never recovered. In fact, Green Bay has done fairly well for itself over the years, and there are thriving (and constantly spreading) commercial districts on the city's outskirts. It's downtown is responding by turning into a venue for condos (not sure how big the market is for downtown condos in a city where land is relatively cheap and driving conditions are easy – good luck with that). But I do miss the downtown that was walkable, where you could do your banking, catch a movie, have lunch (probably not in that order), buy a book and get your new pair of pants without getting into your car four different times.

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