The traditional downtown business district in Carrier Mills stretched from Route 45 down Main Street to Washington Street, and down Oak and Railroad streets between Main Street and Mill Street, but by July, 2006, most of the Carrier Mills downtown was condemned and demolished by the city. Citizens of Carrier Mills said it was better to see empty lots than rotten buildings. Most citizens found it sad that it had to come to such a conclusion.
The business district has been in a slow decline for at least 25 years. No single big event can be tied to the decline of downtown Carrier Mills. Will Scarlet Mine closed in 1987. Sahara's mines closed in 1993, putting hundreds out of work. Each of those closures reverberated through the local economy. Sahara had a reputation for buying locally—when their purchasing ceased it was a big blow to local businesses. But the Carrier Mills downtown area slowly declining even before the big mine closures.
In its heyday, Carrier Mills was home to several hotels, two theaters (The Knox, and the Grand Theater, opened in 1936 and closed in 1970), two banks (Dodds Bank and the First National), several stores and markets. Nearly all have been slowly torn or burned down over the past 20 years.
There were small stores on Friend, Main, East End and Washington Streets—in some instances a small store could be found every few blocks. The small grocery stores gradually shut down as car ownership increased and people were therefore more mobile—something that contributed generally to the decline of small towns like Carrier Mills.
A new building ordinance was set in July 2006 for future construction plans in the vacant downtown area. According to Mayor Louis Shaw, "What we're concerned about is when you walk into town, it doesn't look like a farm."
In April 2007, Carrier Mills Village Board approved entering an agreement with Bob Vancil and Associates to set up a tax increment finance district in an effort to draw new homeowners and businesses. The TIF district is a chance for the village to increase the quality of life with new houses and incentives for improving houses that are in disrepair. Village Board members described establishing the TIF district as a roll of the dice. Vancil will set up the TIF for $15,000 with $5,000 paid up front. If the Scarlet Lake annexation does not happen and the board learns the TIF will not be of benefit to the village, they will not owe the additional $10,000. Vancil said the village will be responsible for paying $3,000 in legal requirements for the TIF, which include giving notice to all businesses and legal advertising in newspapers.
The Scarlet Lake subdivision is a series of 52 lots within the old Will Scarlet strip pit mining area. It will be added to the Village limits as part of the TIF/Annexation project.
In June 2011 the old field and dime store collapsed in Carrier Mills due to disrepair. One of only four downtown structures left in the village.
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