Promote parking — they might come

Published 12:58 am Sunday, April 13, 2014

In the 1989 film “Field of Dreams”, farmer Ray Kinsella, played by actor Kevin Costner, hears that voice in his head that tells him, “If you build it, he will come.” It morphed into “…they will come” since then, but either way it’s a famous line.
If the poobahs in Vicksburg City Hall ever want downtown Vicksburg to thrive, they’ll employ a similar strategy when it comes to the oft-empty hulks of parking space on Mulberry Street.
Promote it, and they might come.
Last week, the prospective owners of the former Grand Station Casino’s hotel sold the twin parking garages that bracket Mulberry’s street corners with Clay and South streets back to the city. It was part of the acquisition of the 117-room hotel that triggered the transfer, one that the city would do well to consider carefully before it gives away all its prime property to the federal government.
What do we mean by that? The month began with Mayor George Flaggs Jr. floating the idea of having the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development expand and build some type of complex for contractors on the 200 acres the city bought more than 10 years ago for ball fields. Then, on Thursday, Flaggs (who we definitely applaud for at least starting a conversation) said the 1.3 acres of parking space in the garages would make a good spot for the Mississippi River Commission if it ever wanted to move out of its historic building across from City Hall.
Here’s where a little true cooperation can come in handy. There’s six blocks worth of antique shops, restaurants, museums, living spaces and other stores along Washington Street between Veto and Jackson streets. In the afternoons, when those strips appear busiest, vehicles of all sizes cram into parking spaces along Washington. Traffic must sometimes stop to allow someone to parallel park — a scenario which, if one driver is distracted for a nanosecond, can turn into a fender-bender.
With the exception of RiverFest and the Fourth of July fireworks show, the two towering parking garages have been sparingly used since the latter days of Harrah’s running the now-departed casino there. Business wasn’t exactly booming during the second decade of gaming at that location under different nameplates. Wind whistling through each garage probably sounds like the start of an old Western movie. If the city wants to see downtown stay busy, incorporating them into the “shopping plan” for the 1300 and 1400 block of Washington is a must. How about putting it in the next TV commercial, along with the obligatory shots of the river bridges, the river itself, the old courthouse, etc.
Not working for you? Seems a bit hokey? Well, neither did the baseball field for Roy Kinsella — until he did something about it.