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Editorial: Main Street gets long-term tuneup; more changes likely

Most everyone would agree that it was impressive the first time to walk through the entrance of what was EconoFoods and see the wide-open bright layout to what is now called Family Fresh Market.

Store owner Nash Finch's interior and exterior redesign with added parking spaces point to a big-time investment and commitment not only to River Falls but, specifically, to the downtown.

Few communities these days can boast of having a grocery store the size and quality of Family Fresh Market in the midst of their Main Street. The majority of large stores and shops have abandoned their Main Street roots for the ever-expanding outskirts.

The renovated Family Fresh, which looks like it was built from scratch, now becomes an even larger anchor business for the downtown.

Like the Falls Theatre except that it has longer hours, the renovated supermarket will continue to draw big -- maybe even bigger -- crowds of customers. Many of those shoppers will find other errands to do and purchases to make in the downtown area.

Any way you look at it, the new Family Fresh in River Falls is a vital and much-needed boost for the sustainability of our Main Street.

On a related note for downtown, we're pleased that the City Council this month will consider implementing a one-year parking-meter hiatus.

Our position has long been that the meters, despite being marketed as nostalgic and quaint, are an irritant to downtown shoppers. In an age of shopping center free parking (and Internet buying), meters stand out as impediments. Their visible presence does no favors for Main Street's business climate.

A one-year hiatus would show if the downtown can get along without parking meters. It would allow us to see how parking dynamics have changed -- or not -- in the last four decades. A recent study indicates the current meters need modernizing and that buying replacements won't be cheap.

Once the old meters are shut off, if problems develop because of congestion and lack of parking spots, discussions can begin about whether it's worth it to buy costly new replacements and restore the old system.

Before making such an expenditure, the City Council would be well-advised to see what transpires without the meters for a year.