I’ve often said that Minden probably has the best downtown in all of Western Nevada. It’s small, just a few blocks, but there is a park right there, wide sidewalks, trees and landscaping, and some great old buildings. There is also no traffic, because the highway bypasses downtown one block to the north. Which makes it a perfect little downtown, but also makes it dead most days. It’s only when there is a special event that there’s any kind of real human presence downtown; the rest of the time it’s like a ghost town. So much so, that the few businesses down there have a hard time of things. The Bank Parlor and Pub just closed this week because they weren’t making enough money to stay open.
So how instructive is this for Carson City’s downtown? When the freeway is finally finished, downtown will be bypassed, at least for people who are just passing through town. I can’t imagine it will end up being this empty, but still. Is downtown Carson attractive enough to bring people in even when they don’t have to be there? I think Carson has an advantage over Minden in that it’s already established, with many more restaurants and shops, and it’s bigger so there are more attractions to draw people in. But with everybody talking about how great it will be when Carson City’s downtown is bypassed, we need to keep in mind that the West is littered with downtowns that died after a freeway was built and all the action moved to the edge of town. Carson City has to keep its focus on making sure people want to come downtown, and that means making sure it never gets a chance to turn into a ghost town like Minden.
These pictures were actually taken during a special event. For Minden, this is crowded.
Hmmm. First, downtown Carson is considering a plan to make the area more attractive, especially to foot/bike/tourist traffic. The plan may not be perfect, but at least someone is trying to look towards the future. I’m guessing that Goldfield didn’t have such a plan in place when the big change hit town. Second, much of the economy of downtown is based on government. I think this is significant since the government employees aren’t going to stop going to work when the new freeway is completed. But if they’re so upset over the lack of tractor trailers on the main drag that they all quit coming to work, this actually might be good for the state. I mean, do we really want people who personally can’t handle change running the state anyhow? Lastly, should we really consider the closing of a restaurant in Minden (that hasn’t been in business very long to begin with) to be an economic indicator of what will happen in Carson? If so, let the mass migration out of this soon-to-be-ghost town begin, but I think I’ll hang on to my Carson property for a few more years just in case this isn’t a sign of impending doom.
To the above points, I would add some more: One, Carson City’s plan includes attracting new residents to its downtown. Two, the V&T will draw tourists to the Carson City area who may be tempted to make a side-trip to downtown (that could be a long shot, but I think it has at least a little merit.) Also, the bus system in Carson City runs through downtown bringing people around all day most of the week.
I think location (way out of the way), local culture (rural/suburban with little use for the trappings of its own downtown), and population (about 1/40th that of Carson City) are the primary factors in the failure of this extremely pleasant little town to sustain regular commercial activity. Which is a shame. Whenever I attended a special event or just took a quick trip down there I always felt like I was wandering around in a storybook.
Perhaps Minden should remain just what it is – an oasis of calm amidst the buzz of activity. Not every town has to be a hub of commercial activity, especially when all the requisite services are nearby. As to Carson City, given its historicity, if the new plans result in a more pedestrian-friendly downtown, Carson City might return to the days of yore when a stroll through downtown, especially on a warm summer night, was a pleasant and friendly experience for both visitors and residents.