I may be wrong, but I kind of think that when it comes to general negative sentiments about empty, abandoned storefronts on Main Street, there are two that are punching above their weight. The first is the old Country Jewelers:

abandoned store front on Main Street

The other is the former Greenfield Games location:

abandoned store front on Main Street

(Okay, and maybe the two weird facade spaces over the train tracks next to Bonnie B’s…)

Otherwise, most of the storefronts on Main Street are pretty well occupied. The obvious exception is the Wilson’s block but that project is moving along and I don’t feel like it should count toward the “Downtown is a ghost town!” narrative.

But for the two storefronts pictured above, they are right next to one another and they occupy a pretty prominent spot right in the middle of the central business district. They are surrounded by pretty active shops and businesses. Nonetheless, both have been sitting unoccupied for at least five years (or maybe longer) and have been falling into an increasing state of disrepair, accumulating graffiti, garbage, and broken windows. They are an eyesore, they occupy on outsized place in our town’s collective imagination, and they fit into the conventional wisdom that downtown sucks.

In discussions about Greenfield’s downtown, I ofter hear frustrated residents declaring that “the city should do something.” I kind of agree, but the question is what. A few years ago, I was talking to someone who was on the City Council at the time; they were kicking around the idea of a vacancy tax, a means of incentivizing downtown landlords not to leave properties unoccupied. It never went anywhere and the person is, sadly for us (less so for them, I imagine), no longer on the council. I’m not even sure such a proposal would pass legal muster.

I tend to think a big part of the problem is out-of-town landlords. I think it’s a lot easier to let a building sit empty for tax reasons if you don’t have to see it—and its effect on the community—every day. More broadly, I think the city has limited levers it can pull about this kind of stuff. Still, I guess I would like to hear more from local officials about how to address these properties incrementally.