Is Highway 54 Killing the West Side of Owensboro? [Photos]
The development on the east side of Owensboro is exciting. There's no doubt about it. The growth on Hwy 54 has been fast-paced and impressive. But many people in Daviess County feel that the hyper-development there is crippling other parts of the city. In the last couple of months, the Malco announced it will be closing its Frederica Street theatre in favor of a new east side location. There are rumors swirling that other signature Owensboro businesses are making the geographical switch as well. And this switch is not just affecting Frederica Street. I live on the west side of the city where multiple businesses have closed over the years and a variety of commercial properties are desperately vacant.
It's interesting. We're seeing the construction of new strip malls in town. There are multiple strip malls under construction on the east side of the city. Heck, we even had one built recently here on the west side (it's home to Donatos and Wasabi's new location). But why are we building new strip malls when we have existing structures that need new tenants and life? Case in point . . .
Does anyone remember when Kuesters closed? It's been years and years and for that period of time this strip mall's anchor store has been vacant. Thousands of square feet of retails space are just sitting there . . . unoccupied, unused. And, as you likely have noticed, when Kuesters closed, it took many of its neighbors with it. And multiple retail spaces adjacent to it are empty.
And the most recent attempt to vitalize that particular shopping center has fallen victim as wel. Pangea Center, briefly home to "dining from around the world" and an events center which entertained us with art shows from Aaron Kizer, productions from Back Alley Musicals, concerts from popular area bands and mystery dinner theatre, has also closed its doors. Thousands and thousands of square feet of restaurant and event space are available. But does anyone, any developer care? It doesn't appear so. And, now, the entire Carter Road strip mall is vacant and eerily resembling a ghost town.
In fact, it seems that entire north end of Carter Road has been abandoned. Los Amigos, a popular Mexican restaurant, closed nearly a decade ago. It's sign is gone (and hideously uninviting) . . .
And the building continues to decay. I used to eat at Los Amigos all the time. And, chances are, I would visit that space again if a new restaurant moved in. But restaurants have had their chance. And they've passed.
And then there's the former IGA location on West Parrish, near Owensboro Catholic High School and Moreland Park. That strip mall, formerly home to the grocery store and businesses like Mr. Jim's Beauty Salon, was razed years ago. Lease signs still sit, on full display, around the lot, but it appears that developers are just uninterested. Is it the location not desirable? Or is the grass figuratively greener on the other side of town?
And, then of course, we have this strip mall . . . recently abandoned by its anchor store, Kmart!
Can we count on a new business to adopt this space and call it home? Again, significant retail space is up for grabs here. So, what's the issue? Are the chain stores and businesses that could find housing here looking at other locations in other parts of town? Are they doing what some of the marquee stores on Frederica are doing and rumored to be doing? Are they looking for space on the east side too?
As someone who lives on the west side of town, I am hoping that developers see potential and growth here. I have to be honest. There are areas of my neighborhood and stomping grounds that are sad and depressing. There are parts of my side of town that look abandoned and hopeless.
But here's the truth. I know there's money on this side of town. I'm not just not sure why we're making it so easy to spend it somewhere else.