30 March 2008

I took a drive through the countryside....

What a pretty day out in the rural area, the trees green with new foliage sprouting in the spring weather:

Wait, what's that fire hydrant doing there? Oh no, this isn't the countryside, it's urban prairie!!!

This vast expanse of verdant urban greenery is within bipping distance - practically adjacent - to downtown and the Cap. It more closely abuts a blighted inner city neighborhood which is home to members of a racial out-group.

Really, it would make a nice park or something. If you're going to have large tracts of empty space in the heart of the city, try to put it to legitimate use. Otherwise, this is a tremendous development opportunity just waiting to happen. Let's see if the civic cheerleaders of the next great Southern city will put their money where their mouth is.

Of course, new investment in, or near, our thriving downtown area may not necessarily be a financially practical proposition:

Downtown's main commercial street at the height of a climatically pleasant Sunday afternoon, remains the precinct of the hobo and the zombie.

Yes, downtown has come along in the past few years. The city solons have been mostly successful in their attempts to attract warm bodies for special events, and there has been new investment (mostly public sector initiated). But as this image testifies, downtown still has a long way to go.

As long as something is going on downtown, there is brief liveliness - otherwise there is no reason to be there. Downtown still remains largely an 8 to 5, Monday to Friday governmental and office precinct, the restaurants and other businesses open only for a brief midday period to serve the office drone lunch crowd, with a few sterile cultural attractions thrown in. After visiting the same handful of museums a dozen times, the attractions do get old. There are few full schedule eateries and virtually no full schedule retailers.

That's why those lifestyle developments out in the suburbs get so much traffic. Not that they have anything truly special to offer, but their newness is a magnet (for now), plus they offer shops and eateries which remain open for intervals convenient for consumers to splurge their paychecks. Once their novelty wears off, hopefully by that time downtown (as opposed to its suburban facsimiles) will have become lively again. If not, well....