One Down, Two To Go

Coming to you from the Des Moines airport this week, so please remember that as I warned last week, these next couple of posts will not likely relate directly to Chattanooga, and will struggle to achieve the already low standards of the C.Rushing blog. You have been warned...

Friends, I managed to survive the first leg of three in a week full of travel. This past weekend I journeyed back to my Homeland with three of my buddies who had the misfortune of being born UT fans. On Friday afternoon we took a leisurely cruise down I-59 to Birmingham and on Saturday rolled in to Tuscaloosa to watch the country’s best college football team play Tennessee (if I never hear the phrase “Go Vols” again it will be too soon). As many of you know, because of my complex, sub-allegiance to Auburn, Tennessee is my most hated college football rival. For both fan bases this is a big rivalry, but for me it is THE rivalry. Thankfully, after a nervy start, things finished as scripted.

One of the great things about this past weekend was that I was reminded again of just how much I enjoy being a pedestrian able to catch up some much needed rest and read a great hotel guest guide to Birmingham. Upon reaching the city we parked in a structure near the hotel and forgot about it. I relish the feeling of cutting the tether to the car, if even for a short while. It was a great joy to be able to walk from pub to pub cafe to cafe to sample brown liquor exotic coffees and teas, go window shopping for any place to get something on my stomach just the right place to eat, chat with homeless folks on the street and attend a new nightclub opening retire early to enjoy a full night's sleep. This experience was made possible only by density.

It was nice to catch up some light reading this weekend.

The density equation has two components: population and form. For those types of service businesses to survive they have to have a broad customer base. There needs to be a residential population base nearby to support them. From a practical standpoint, the form of the place has to accommodate the function of walking. Businesses need to be close enough to one another to make a walk practical. Of course, there needs to be a physical place for people to walk (sidewalk). These are simple concepts; cities have built accordingly for centuries. More recently, it was understood by sub-urban developers- hence the physical form of the shopping mall. The fault in the sub-urb, however, is the segregation of use and separation of people from the businesses that serve them. So there you have it, downtown revitalization made simple: Build a compact place (with sidewalks) for people to live and businesses will move there to serve them.

On Saturday, in God’s own Tuscaloosa, we parked in a lot and headed for campus. College towns and campuses are typically great showcases of pedestrianism. The vast majority of one’s needs are provided for within walking distance, as many students, faculty and staff don’t have cars. I was reminded of my college days, when life’s daily business was conducted without an automobile. From my house I could walk to class, walk to the movies work, walk to the bowling alley gym, and walk to the pub library. If you substitute “work” for “class” in the equation, what is so different between living near a college campus or in a downtown? Yet despite the fact that many suburbanites enjoyed a pleasant pedestrian lifestyle in their college days, they have a hard time making the leap that a downtown can provide the same thing.

I am, however, in a good mood today and will not embark on another anti-sub-urb rant. I am optimistic that the downtowns in our country will continue their positive trend and that the suburbs can be recast into something healthier and more productive.

With a Tide victory over UT in hand and pleasure out of the way, up next is business in Ottumwa, IA and Auburn (back in God’s Country).

Have a great week, Roll Tide!!

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