Saturday, January 18

A clean Westwood is key for bringing in new business

The Business Improvement District hires crews to keep Village safe and free of trash

Westwood is finally taking a turn for the better ““ or trying to, at least.

Last week, the newly formed Business Improvement District launched a program to bring city services back to the Village.

Every day from now on, up to six people will be on patrol to help clean up the streets and assist shoppers with questions. They will also work with police to ensure the public’s safety.

These foot soldiers of Westwood, distinguished by their bright blue uniforms and Segways, are a funny-looking lot.

And at a cost of $546,000 per year, the company hired to provide these services is anything but cheap.

But decades of neglect by city maintenance crews have crippled the Village. Sidewalks are crooked and filthy; trees are overgrown; homelessness is rampant; and gross smells are attached to random places. It’s no wonder stores are struggling to find customers.

Before anything else can be done, cleanliness and safety must be prioritized. For this reason, we believe hiring service workers is a sound investment.

The BID has also identified a third priority in beautification. To this end, it has recently spent $32,000 installing year-round Christmas lights on the trees on Broxton Avenue and Westwood Boulevard.

The lights look nice, and while some may decry their price tag, everything depends on how much business the Village can win back.

It’s our feeling that small projects like this can help attract needed attention from locals and potential shoppers. Of course there is still a big difference in the aesthetics of Westwood and Third Street Promenade, but then again, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Unsigned editorials represent the majority opinion of the editorial board.

Most business owners seem to be on board with the agenda the BID is pushing. Yet Philip Gabriel, owner of Scrubs Unlimited and Baskin Robbins in Westwood, makes a good point.

“Everything (the BID) is doing is going in the right direction,” he said. “The cleaning is great, but it doesn’t change the fact that there are so many empty spaces in the Village.”

The real problem, according to Gabriel, is that property owners charge exorbitant rents for retail locations that are not as profitable as they think they are.

This problem is out of the BID’s hands, but considering that business owners pay a majority of the BID’s $1.3 million budget, we think it only fair that property owners do their part to help support the Village.

As these developments progress, it is important that the goal is to create the friendliest environment possible for local businesses. This begins with a cleaner Westwood but should eventually lead to changes in policy so businesses can once again thrive.

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