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A Tail of Two Buildings : Part One

Our Council Grove downtown is looking sharp, y’all! And, this is entirely the due to the blood, sweat, and dollars of our area entrepreneurs. Do you see why I love these guys so much? Our buildings are getting more and more charming all the time. This kind of charm leads to increased property values, economic development, and sales tax revenue. Pretty much what we all want, right?

I am going to tell you the story of two buildings in rural America over the course of two years. Follow their journey and decide which community you want to land in, then go forth accordingly. This week I give you . . .

The Tail of Building No. One

Building No. 1 was erected in 1868. It is a two-story, brick structure that has seen many iterations of itself over the years. From a general store to a jewelry store, then an insurance office to a small cafe, this building has now sat vacant since 2019.

It's showing its neglect, but despite its flaws, it was recently purchased by some hopeful town natives. They aren’t sure what they want it to be just yet, but they know they need to move fast so that the building remains structurally sound.

These natives love modernity. They have an eye for style and quality and are thrilled to begin discussing their vision for the building with their community. The first couple of conversations go well. They are encouraged and excited to build momentum towards this project which is great because, although they are deeply committed to it, they will be spending what equates to a “fortune” for them.

It’s the third conversation where things start to go awry. This conversation turns into a downer quickly as the community member begins to explain their own vision for the building and talk down the visual appeal of another recently rehabbed building in town.

Our new building owners try to shake off this conversation when they bump into another acquaintance. In sharing life updates, the acquaintance questions the feasibility of every idea. Feeling the weight of community expectations, our natives begin to feel overwhelmed. They then come home to a letter from another local expressing the importance of preserving the building's past, even if it comes at the expense of its future. The couple files this letter away and moves forward.

A few months have passed, and their community has let every thought, feeling, and criticism be known. Our couple feels torn, overwhelmed, and under-enthused. How do they move forward and make their community happy, while spending their life savings, AND come up with a profitable business concept that the town will support knowing all of this information?

Fast forward a year. Our couple has narrowed down the style, and materials, and boldly decided on their business concept for their new space. It’s time to begin work. Permits are applied for, grants are requested, funding is secured, and they even took out an ad in the local paper to drum up more community enthusiasm for the project. This backfires on them.

Letters to the editor show begin appearing. Concerns are voiced publicly that their concept and plans are too bold, not bold enough, too much, too little, too new, too old, and on and on.

Our couple backs down and tries to regroup. They go through this step again, only to now be met with more intense criticism. It is now the two-year mark, and the couple still owns the building, but little progress has been made, and they feel disconnected and unsupported by their community. Where do they go from here? How do they find the confidence to pursue this dream in a way that aligns with their interests, finances, and passions when the community is so vocally opposed to, what seems like, everything? In reality, had they offered encouragement, rather than negativity, our couple would probably be cutting the ribbon to a beautiful new asset in their town, but instead, they are battle-worn and weary, and thinking of just putting the building back on the market with only two more years of wear and tear to show for it.

Next week, we’ll dive into the opposite of this scenario. What happens when a community makes a conscious effort to encourage and support these investors, risk-takers, and dreamers? Spoiler Alert : Everyone wins.

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