For the last sixteen months, the citizens of Lawton have wondered what the city had planned for saving or revitalizing the mall the city council secretly purchased with promised road money. While we all have high hopes for the success of FISTA, which has been an underwhelming and costly burden so far, there's still a possibility that the dying mall could once again become THE place in town to be.

We've talked in the past about the various ways the taxpayers believe the mall could be used. I'm particularly a fan of filling those storefronts with small local businesses based on low-cost simple lease agreements. Since public funds paid for the building, there should be no expectation for the city to profit any revenue... plus recouping any/lower revenue is better than making the zero revenue the empty stores are now.

Like any project aimed at public popularity, it just needs a spark to jump-start a trend and that news apparently broke the other day but few came across it.

I swear, if you want to hide the news from people, print it in a newspaper... It might as well be the second page of Google. Still, you can't deny this great idea... Someone suggested setting up the Christmas in the Park ice skating rink somewhere in the mall.

It's a smart first move to bring people back, but is it enough to make people stay?

Yes, people still frequent the mall for some of the remaining stores doing business there for the remainder of their leases, but people don't loiter around like they used to. Even our youth display the habits of every middle-aged father in the world... Walk in, get the one thing you came for, look at nothing else, pay and walk out with what you came for.

Following the famous phrase, if you build it they will come. That much is true. The ice rink is a stellar idea and a great use of an already owned asset being valuable beyond the original pitch... but how long will it suffice before we're back at square one? At some point, that ice rink has to move back to the park, what will keep people coming back to the mall when the "new" wears off?

Just as we talked about when explaining why Lawton entrepreneurs don't bring fun businesses here, filling the mall again with tenants is more of an uphill battle than you think.

Not only does any small business take money and capital to take that first leap, but the people in control of this space are also mostly made up of (mostly) small business and real estate owners that tend to lean toward an old-school view of how things should be done.

Totally hypothetical example... If you owned a strip mall across town that fetched an average of $3500 per month in rent per storefront, would you be willing to offer small businesses a similar-sized storefront in a publically subsidized space for only $500 per month? Of course not, you'd be a walking, talking contradiction and conflict of interests - both personal and professional... A real double-threat.

It brings back to light the age-old complex question of greater good vs personal gain that parallels similar arguments like, for instance, college debt. The bulk of people who are against canceling college debt are generally the people that worked hard to pay their own college debt off. As they had to pay, they continue to believe all others should have to.

It's that old "If it's good for the goose, it's good for the gander" type of mentality that hinders anything slightly progressive (in a good way). "You have to pay your dues..." That's truly what likely kills most small businesses in America even before they've had a chance to spread their wings and fly. Well, that and promising "investors" you'll fill a vacant Sears and Dillard's will high-paying FISTA jobs only to see the progress end with a handful of jobs placed in the much smaller old bank space in the mall...

The ice rink is still a fantastic idea. It's a bit of good news in an otherwise continuing bummer of a story. We can at least have faith that it may be the catalyst Central Plaza has been waiting on. A jump-start as a sump-pump that could eventually save the sinking ship. If anything else, it'll be one more item to add to my list of Things To Do In Lawton - Fort Sill.

Things To Do In Lawton - Fort Sill

Odds are, if you live here long enough, you'll simply forget how much awesomeness surrounds this community. It's like getting tired of an old toy, the new simply wears off... but, no matter what time of year it is, here are some things to do when you come to Lawton - Fort Sill

Fun & Kid Friendly Oklahoma Vacation Destinations

Far too often, some bored Karen whose only personality trait is complaining about everything will say something along the lines of "There's nothing to do in Oklahoma..." That's simply not true. There is a ton of stuff to do in Oklahoma that you and the kids will love, you just have to know where to find that stuff and have the gumption to hop off the couch and go do some of it.

The Wonders of Palo Duro Canyon in the Texas Panhandle

Often called the Grand Canyon of Texas, it's easy to feel small when surrounded by the towering land. Palo Duro offers stellar hiking and biking, camping, and even cabins to plan more of a family or lovers getaway. Explore it on foot, on wheels, on horses, etc... Cap off the day with an authentic taqueria meal in Amarillo, if you can stand the smell. They don't call it "Cow Town" for nothing...


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