Vacant buildings hurting city's downtown area

Keri Thornton | Daily Press

The Dream Theatre opened occasionally for film screenings, live stage shows, and music concerts in the early 2010s. It's listed as being for rent according to the Tahlequah Main Street Association website and its marquee.

Officials say the lack of occupied buildings has caused a significant economic loss to the downtown area.

Even as the global pandemic has knocked down local businesses since March, owners continue to push forward to ensure they're still standing when life returns to normal.

Tahlequah Main Street Association Director Jamie Hale explained the city relies on locally owned businesses and property owners to strengthen its economy.

"When consumers are able to purchase from small businesses as opposed to larger chains, that money is spent two to three times over within our community," Hale said.

Hale said TSMA follows the Main Street America four-point approach: economic vitality, design, organization, and promotion.

"Our Economic Vitality committee is one pillar of that development tool that is continuously working with property owners in the city to help strengthen economic development within our historic downtown corridor," Hale said.

One local business owner, who spoke to the Tahlequah Daily Press on the condition that he be not identified, said he saw downtown thriving before some businesses closed their doors.

"These buildings are just wasting away and they're rotting, and it's sad to see it if you've seen the potential they've had in the past," he said. "I don't know what's going to happen with them, but I do know there could be more money brought in, especially being so close to the university."

Hale said, on a national level, every 100 square foot of storefront property that is vacant is a potential loss of up to $100,000 in tax revenue.

"Our downtown corridor currently operates on average at a 90-percent occupancy rate, which means our vacant properties - if available - are usually occupied quickly," Hale said.

According to the Tahlequah Main Street Association website, as of January 2020, there were three buildings for sale and eight for rent on Main Street.

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