Restoring a broken heart

“Another downtown business bites the dust.. Corleigh’s place will be closing Saturday, April 9th at 2:30.” This is the message that was printed on a white board sign outside of the homestyle food diner located down on the bricks last April. “I’m so sad. I took all my friends there and even made my boyfriend go when he visited. Even more than that, I’m sad about how it reflects our community,” said senior Kayleigh Wagner. Wagner is an avid downtown-goer, who believes that community life, specifically downtown, is lacking.

Espresso Shop and Caravan Skate Shop owner, Brandon Raby has made it his goal for many years to enrich the culture in North Platte, specifically targeting the downtown area. “I feel like the downtown district is the heart of a community and represents that community as a whole,” said Raby. “There’s a lack of awareness in our community, specifically downtown. I don’t know if people are preoccupied or just don’t care, but it doesn’t represent our city well. It creates a bad atmosphere” he said. “Hirshfield’s is a business we can be really proud of downtown. It’s fresh, stylish, clean, and well put together,” Raby said. He believes the downtown area should be enriched with more businesses that rise to this reputation and provide style and culture.

The minimal number of students who have been downtown in the past few years would say that there isn’t much going on. However, the even smaller population of students who spend more time downtown report a lot of potential that the general population fails to see. Wagner targets her love for the North Platte community to downtown. “I love downtown with all my heart,” she said, “I think it’s such a beautiful, homey place where people can learn to reconnect with each other minus technology. It’s also an awesome place to hang out and support local businesses,” she said.

Wagner loves exploring downtown and her favorite spot is the Espresso Shop. “I love the cozy atmosphere of this place… Everyone is so friendly and you can never overstay your welcome,” said Wagner. “The Espresso Shoppe is a place for older and younger generations alike to interact, find common ground, and bridge the gap,” she said.

Wagner believes there is a variety of community events that could be organized with ease and very little cost. “We could extend on our Farmer’s Market, making it bigger and maybe adding art displays or live music. There could also be Flea Markets organized,” she said. In terms of decorating, Wagner believes people (possibly even the North Platte High School art students) could contact the city and receive space to create sculptures. “I also think we should leave lights up in the trees all year long, and make that big, vacant parking lot across from Alco into a grassy lot with some flowers, benches, and shrubs, where people could go hang out or picnic,” Wagner said.

The abundance of vacant lots downtown is a concern to Raby as well. “I’d love to see a new skate park be built, preferably in the downtown area. It’s something we desperately need updated and to be put in a new location. We could take care of the vacant lots downtown by putting something useful there,” he said.

Raby said that the apathy and lack of people willing to come together is where community life struggles. “A lot of the youngsters just don’t really care,” he said. “Kids make it their goal to hit the road as soon as they graduate and never look back or try to influence a change, and that’s part of our problem,” Raby said. He believes far too much community energy is being placed into areas that it shouldn’t be. “There’s a lack of focus on all of the disgusting things that occur. The insignificant and petty stuff is being harassed way too much,” he said.

The power to change the energy and progressiveness of our community life lies heavily in the hands of the younger population. People like Wagner have incredibly creative ideas of how to incorporate stronger culture and bring people together in the heart of the community, but no one can make things happen alone.

Many people say they want change or don’t like the way things are, but “change isn’t going to happen until we can get a strong group of people behind it,” said Raby. Wagner agreed, “I think a lot of our community members, specifically young people, could do a lot more than we’re doing to build the community of North Platte.”“All I want is to see people become more inspired and contribute to the city’s culture, so that we can build a community to be truly proud of,” Raby said. Together, we have the ability to change the focus, increase culture, and influence change within the community of North Platte.