Bringing downtown back

The village of Lisbon is considering legislation that deserves notice from every town wanting to breathe new life into a downtown business district.

A survey conducted by Town Center Associates, a consulting firm hired by council and the chamber of commerce to revitalize the downtown found that 21 commercial storefronts are currently vacant in Lisbon, and none of those was listed for rent or sale.

TCA intends to present legislation to village council that would fine landlords who do not make an effort to lease or sell their empty storefront buildings. They would also be fined for allowing the buildings to fall into disrepair.

The fine has tentatively been set at $500 per year and would be waived if the property is kept clean, has no maintenance code violations, kept continuously on the market for sale or lease and the local taxes have been paid. The village would need to closely monitor the properties to be sure they remain in compliance.

Communities need to be proactive in attracting businesses and commercial building owners must actively try to find occupants for their empty storefronts. It’s difficult to understand why building owners would not be trying to fill them with occupants to boost their rental income. Now, with the threat of fines these lax owners, who don’t seem to worry about loss of income, will now have to worry about these fines being an additional drain on their bank accounts.

Landlords are already starting to take notice. Chamber President Susan Shank said that after the plan was discussed at a recent meeting she was already getting calls from owners of vacant storefronts concerning the fines and that two owners were now trying to sell their empty buildings.

Many other towns around Columbiana County also have empty storefronts that blemish their landscape and thwart efforts to revitalize downtown business districts. Officials there should pay attention as Lisbon goes through the process of going after these negligent landlords and follow suit.