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Thread: Cities opt for economics instead of religion to boost downtown areas

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Cities opt for economics instead of religion to boost downtown areas

    Headline from Page 1 USA TODAY.

    HIGHLIGHTS:

    Churches are being turned away by cities and towns that hope to enliven a fading downtown or boost their tax base.

    The communities with restrictions say they're not against churches, they just want a variety of services for their residents and businesses that attract customers seven days a week.

    Community Mentioned:
    Kenly, NC
    Stafford, TX
    Miramar, FL
    Titusville, PA
    Why should or shouldn't churches be allowed in a downtown ?

    In my fair city we have several churches adjacent to but not in downtown.
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  2. #2

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    I think churches are fine in downtowns. Just not in office space or retail buildings. Vacaville limits the conversion of additional storefronts to churches in its small downtown. They DO create a deadening effect on commercial streets.

    The problem, of course, is the schismatic character of modern fundamentalist/charismatic Protestantism, which means that every fervent preacher forms HIS own church with HIS own interpretation of the Bible. And, these small congregations cannot afford to build a "church" building at first (at least until they take off and become megachurches.). So-storefronts or industrial buildings are the solution for cheap worship space.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian IlliniPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by JNA View post
    Headline from Page 1 USA TODAY.

    HIGHLIGHTS:


    Why should or shouldn't churches be allowed in a downtown ?

    In my fair city we have several churches adjacent to but not in downtown.
    Churches are tax-exempt entities which don't help a community trying to establish a good tax base in the downtown. Commercial properties are typically your highest assessed propertries as well.
    One lot of redevelopment prevents a block of sprawl.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Coragus's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by IlliniPlanner View post
    Churches are tax-exempt entities which don't help a community trying to establish a good tax base in the downtown. Commercial properties are typically your highest assessed propertries as well.
    I agree 100%. Beyond that though, a business will be visited every day, all day long. A church may have only three or four services a week. It might also have receptions, but the guests at those aren't going to go shopping downtown for a cup of coffee when it's available for free inside.
    Back home just in time for hockey season!

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    Churches use abandoned weekend streets and parking.

    Churches have meetings and services during the week at night, again when streets are abandoned.

    They bring in suburban dwelling worshipers who also dine at fine downtown restaurants which would not have as much weekend business otherwise.

    Downtown churches in our area conduct daily "Stew Pot" lunchtime feeding of the destitute, and provide spiritual experience lead by like people. This is a calming influence on an otherwise dismal place. It is a spiritual lesson to those receiving and and those giving, which is a benefit for the city's social aspects. Crime is reduced in the area (no need to steal, beg, or mug someone for a meal).

    Churches provide a good image for the city. Abandoned churches provide the worst image.

    Churches usually reduce the scale of large cities having tall buildings, and many have courtyards with landscaping - a free maintained park for busy city workers.

    Churches give hope for the hopeless and the destitute.

    Churches provide jobs for people in the downtown area - their clergy, maintenance staff, landscaping, and churches pay for city utilities, parking, insurance, private security, supplemental off-duty police for traffic control, etc.

    We don't "reserve" land for churches downtown, but if they can find it to be financially feasible, we certainly welcome them. We don't have enough churches to significantly reduce city income. If we did, the land would probably be so desireable and expensive that the church could not afford it or afford to keep their sites.

    Of course if you ban churches, that deprives your downtown residents of a spiritual resource and positive image, and contributes to suburban flight.

    It seems like you would want to give tax breaks to attract churches for their many positive benefits to downtown, if you didn't already.

  6. #6
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Streck View post
    It seems like you would want to give tax breaks to attract churches for their many positive benefits to downtown, if you didn't already.
    They already get tax breaks - it called 501c3 - tax exempt status.

    Yes, banning churches is not a good idea, actually it's unconstitutional. But there is a good argument for discouraging them from occupying prime commercial land/space, which they don't really need anyway as a purely destination use - people purposely use them, therefore being off the 'main' street won't hurt them.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    I think churches (or any religious institution) can have a positive impact on downtowns even though they do not directly generate cash (though indirectly they may). Their contribution can be in establishing/occupying an iconic building and contributing to a busy public presence on the street as a part of services, weddings, funerals, and other events.

    However, it largely depends on the folks running the show. Many churches in Philadelphia, I recall, rented out their space to bands, talks/lectures, and other events throughout the week which made for a lively scene on the street. People who attend such events then often go to local restaurants and other establishments in the area. Similarly, the tradition of going out to a big brunch after services can really boost local restaurants. This is not so much the case here in Albuquerque, though. Few churches I am aware of have events outside of what the church organizes, which are few beyond regular services.

    Churches can also serve as social hubs for communities with strong cultural identities (especially immigrant communities). Korean churches I have lived near, for example, often run lots of classes and other services for the community, making for a lively place.

    The main downside I see is the restriction it puts on serving alcohol within a certain distance of religious establishments. Some downtown revitalization approaches emphasize establishing drinking holes as the first step to bringing people back downtown. Also, churches may also be in the business of serving "undesirables" such as the homeless which some may view as detrimental to a lively downtown.
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