Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Downtown Decorated! Hopes Leap

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Downtown Decorated! Hopes Leap

Article excerpt

About this time last year, Sam Bucholtz could hardly find a

hint of Christmas when he gazed out of the windows of The

Luggage Shop downtown.

Instead of Santa Claus and the sounds of high school bands and

choruses ringing in the season, as they used to do until the

mid-1980s, there was silence.

A silence framed by defunct stores and broken only by the

occasional hum of buses -- buses that used to drop off shoppers,

but now mostly leave workers and exhaust breezes that buoy

litter. At night, a darkness unpierced by the flicker and glow

of Christmas lights enveloped the square.

But this month, just as Bucholtz had hoped, that scene changed

somewhat. The St. James Building, which renowned architect Henry

Klutho built in 1912 as a Cohen Bros. department store, opened

as the new City Hall. There are decorations in the windows.

Green and red displays, lighted reindeer and other decorations

adorn the stony expanses of Hemming Plaza.

Right across from where Bucholtz, who has managed The Luggage

Shop since 1963, can see them.

"We haven't had decorations in years. It really looks a lot

better," Bucholtz said. "The [St. James] building is a beautiful

restoration. It's worth coming downtown just to look at. There

are people who have been in here, who haven't visited us before,

who have said they are employees of City Hall."

For Bucholtz, one of the last surviving retailers that resisted

the exodus to the suburbs in the mid- to late-1980s, city

government made a major step toward healing the heart of

downtown -- the heart of the city -- by moving its own employees

there.

But he thinks that momentum can continue only if there is more

vision and action from the city, as well as individuals, on

restoring downtown.

"In any sizable downtown, government does what it can,"

Bucholtz said. …

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