Thursday, August 1, 2013

Dear Donald Trump, Barbara Corcoran ...

... Shark Tank "Sharks" and any other visionary real estate moguls and developers;

  I remember a past where shopping centers were thriving, bringing jobs and money to small urban communities.  They were usually anchored by a large chain grocery store, then smaller stores and restaurants that catered to the community's needs.

  Now these centers have become part of the urban blight that plagues communities, towns and cities across this county.  Sitting empty, they speak to a depressed economy ... and the depression of the people who live in that community.

  The first chapter of my book, Trooper's Run, was based on my final thesis when I was working on my Master's of Business Administration degree.  In it, I took a failed shopping center and revitalized it into a center that was specialized to the needs of the community.

  Instead of tearing down, or clearing forested land, and building new buildings, can't we find a way to recycle what we have?  If not a dog care themed center, what about a school or child care center?  What about a medical center?  Or even a church and school?  Wouldn't it be wonderful to have fewer vacant buildings, and more green spaces, by utilizing the space we have?

  I have a dream ... that one day there are no more vacant shopping centers and instead there are centers filled with people who are proud of their jobs, their creations, their community.

 I have a dream that one day instead of urban blight ... we have urban light.

                                                                                               Cindi Summerlin

“Trooper’s Run” was every dog’s dream park and day care facility. Cidney had designed it with her large dog in mind, knowing how he loved to run and play. She had wanted a facility where she knew he and his play buddies would be safe and protected from the elements, especially in the sometimes harsh Alaskan winters.

The large grocery store had been converted to an indoor dog park with a running track along the interior perimeter of the space that would allow for a continuous run. Ramps had been constructed that gradually took the running dogs up and over the doorways, and an eight foot Plexiglas wall kept the dogs within the run and also allowed her to see where they all were, as well as allowing the dogs to see what was going on in the rest of the space.

In the center of the building, four rooms for dogs and an office had been built with tall Plexiglas walls. All of the rooms and each corner of the run were equipped with cameras that relayed images to a website where owners could click into each room to watch their dogs during the day.

Three months after the Run opened, she opened the Dirty Dog Wash. Cidney had installed a row of large waist high tubs, sinks and walk-in tubs where owners could come in and wash their dogs. For less than what a professional groomer would charge to bathe a large dog, she provided the water, shampoo, clean towels, and blow dryers for clients to do it themselves. She wondered at first if it had been a mistake to open it, whether or not the local community would even want something like that. Two weeks after it opened, however, she could barely keep up with the laundry. Not only did the local dog owners come in for the convenience of being able to bathe their dogs without hurting their backs, but a surprising number of vacationers who traveled with their dogs were also coming in.

She opened the Bow-Wowza Bakery in November, just three months later. It was the only dog friendly bakery and coffee shop in town that the health department had finally approved to have dogs inside the shop. All of the cookies were made with organic ingredients and could be eaten by dogs or people. Even the carob-chip cookies were safe for dogs. The organic roasted coffee beans were also a huge success, and the warm, inviting atmosphere with light therapy lamps at each table for the dark winter months kept the bakery packed from sundown to … sundown.

The last shop she opened was the Woof-tique. The boutique was filled with unique gifts for both pets and people that had an animal theme of some sort. Cidney tried to showcase local artists in the area of all ages, and so most of the gifts were handmade and one of a kind. During the long winter, many of the locals worked on wood or bone carvings or quilting to keep them busy when it was too cold to do much outside. It soon became a favorite stop for tourists from the cruise ships and other vacationers.

Now, with the plaza’s anniversary celebrations just two weeks away, Cidney was reviewing a lease agreement and recommendations for a veterinarian that was moving to the area to open a practice.   If everything looked agreeable, he would open an office in the last vacant store front on the other side of the Woof-tique. It would complete the plaza and tie everything together.

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