The Decatur City Council's job is to make decisions. The difficult ones as well as the obvious. Those decisions are always going to be under review.
Four decades later, the review of the council's decision about a Decatur mall continues to be a thumbs down. As detailed in Tony Reid's story in today's Herald & Review, 44 years ago, the city council voted by a margin of one to reject annexing land in Decatur for what became the Hickory Point Mall just north of the city.
Among the secrets of success in financial decision-making is knowing which way the winds are blowing. As Millikin professor Anthony Liberatore points out in Reid's story, resisting changing with the times can lead to poor decisions. City council members in 1974 were responding to concerns from Decatur retailers, who were among those resisting the idea of change. Some of those same retailers were either put out of business as shoppers flocked to Forsyth's mall, or ended up moving to the mall themselves.
We only need look at what Forsyth has become to imagine what might have happened had Decatur agreed to the mall and received its attending taxes. Millions of dollars in taxes went to Forysth, and the shoppers attracted to the mall attracted the attention of other retail outlets and restaurants, making the village a target for visitors off the interstate.
Former mayor Paul Osborne cited the mall decision as he battled in 2007 for the city to purchase the Decatur Conference Center and Hotel. He said he saw the hotel as a precious business generator. A $6.5 million purchase resulted months later in a $7.225 million sale to developer Steve Horve.
Time will also judge the decision Osborne and his city council made. But it won't be judged the way the mall decision has been bemoaned. Those who opposed the decision at the time have either left or been decidedly quiet.
The mall doesn't draw as many people as it once did, but the constant traffic through Forsyth remains, thanks to the other businesses who have followed the customers there. Decisions inevitably close one door while opening another.
Even the most optimistic could not have predicted how a wide, wide door would continue to change Forsyth, more than four decades down the line.