It’s time to do something about downtown

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Action needs to be taken to make our downtown look better.
Recently, a friend from another state was visiting our home. Early one morning, he took off on a walk. This walk took him east and west of our home at the corner of Harrison and Moses. He was stunned by the difference in the appearance of our town talking one block east then one block west of our home.
To the west are some properties that look fine but then again, there are properties the appearance of should not be tolerated in our community.
Over a year ago, a program began called “Cushing Pride.” It is a wonderful idea born years after we really needed it. Better late than never.
We thought Cushing Pride would catch on and take on a life of its own. It was begun through the city of Cushing and, to date, not enough emphasis, focus and passion has been provided this program to allow it to do as organizers dreamed. It’s not too late.
Cushing Pride deserves to have someone at the helm who will devote the time, care and love of community. At the same time, it needs this movement to have the teeth of the city of Cushing behind it.
Take the building on the southeast corner of Cleveland and Moses. What a great building it must have been in its prime. Today, it is may or maybe not a candidate for rehabilitation. We have not investigated but suspect the roof is no good — has been bad for many years — and all floors are trashed. The basement must be full of water and muck.
Who owns this building? We’d speculate the owner does not live in Cushing or else they would be embarrassed enough to do something.
But what might they do? There are options:
After investigation, one might learn the building still has good bones. Perhaps it needs to have some care given to the outside such as taking those unsightly overgrown vines off the side along with some fix-up paint up and replacing a few windowpanes. After that, one may begin working on the inside to make it useful.
Once determined the building is salvageable, the owner may admit they have no use for the property and is not willing to invest a dime in its rehabilitation. The owner could then attempt sell the property and glean something out of it or to do what we are trying with the old Citizen building across from the post office: give it away.
Hopefully, we can give it to a tax-exempt entity, gain some tax advantage, and land the property in the hands of someone who cares enough and can afford to rehab the building and make it useful again. God knows the building deserves it.
Should the current owner of the building at Cleveland and Moses not be interested in doing anything for the building, there’s another option. Say the owner is not even available. Say the owner is in another state and has no interest in the property whatsoever.
We submit this is precisely the case on too many properties in downtown Cushing. If that is the case, we have two options. One is to leave it alone and let it continue to deteriorate and continue to be a black spot on the “heart of Cushing.” Or the city can eminent domain the building, take ownership, do with it what it must to rehab or demo the property then, once complete, sell it for a dollar to a party who has a plan to do something useful with the area.
For way too many years, the city has tolerated doing nothing with old, neglected buildings. It could be a matter of remembering how they once were and the downward neglect has been so gradual that we don’t notice the state of these properties as, say, a visitor might.
This could be what’s happened with some of our downtown properties still in use.
Although we have some five full-time people working in code enforcement, there continues to be properties — owned by local people doing business in that property — that do not take care and cannot see there are things they could do with a rather small investment that would make their property a bright spot. It might inspire neighbors to show some pride in their properties, as well.
Code enforcement should be in the middle of this but apparently is not. Maybe it has never been told it should.
Perhaps its time again to have an architect come to Cushing and take several of these blocks that don’t look so good and provide us some drawings of attractive “streetscapes” that could be once people took some pride and made investment.
This is a project Cushing Pride should grab hold of. If our community can arrange to make Cushing Pride an actual organization with people committed on an ongoing basis, it will make improvements in the community, demonstrating to outsiders that people here really do care about our community. This group then could take on downtown Cushing as a project. At least certain blocks of it.
So for unused properties the owners are neglecting, the options are fix it, sell it, give it or the city will take it through eminent domain.
For properties in use, step across the street, just for a minute, and be rigorously honest with this question, “Am I proud of how my property looks?”
If no, what are you going to do about it such that next time you look at yourself from across the street, absolutely the answer will be “yes!”
We should be proud of our town. We should be excited to have visitors come to Cushing and see how prosperous and how well cared for our town appears.
Action steps must be taken to begin to change this condition. We need to start building an attitude of pride and Cushing Pride can help with that once the structure of the organization is established and functioning.
Secondly, we must have standards for property appearance enforced by our code enforcement division and punishable by fines for people who refuse to comply.
Is this doable? I don’t know. What do you want?