After being tested in the sub-freezing climes of Iowa, the mere freezing temps in New England this week posed no problem for your boy. Apologies, but with the passing of football season, it appears that weather has become my new crutch for the blog opening. Sorry, that’s all I’ve got. A few pitch-perfect days in the Scenic City, however, have blunted the edge of winter’s memory so hopefully we can put this little phase behind us.
Over the course of the last three years I have written about a wide variety of things. Yet when it comes to describing exactly what I would like to see our city become, I’ve been batting the bunny around. I’ve never made specific comments about what I want. This week I will remedy that by providing just such a list. Your list may differ and that’s one of the things that makes this country great. As a great Alabamian once said, “I may be wrong, but I doubt it.”
Disclaimer: Each of the items on this list is less important the process of developing a community vision for how they are achieved.
-I want a borderline out-of-control college strip. I’m getting on up there, so this is not likely to benefit me directly. (My version of an out-of-control night involves happy hour and ends before the sun goes down) The energy of an active social scene for young adults adds immeasurably to the life of a city. I think we’re on the verge of this happening- the question is where. Vine Street? Patten Parkway? The Boulevard? Time will tell….
-I want racially and economically diverse neighborhoods. One could argue that we have a few, unfortunately, those are all in one stage of gentrification or another (and yes, there is hypocrisy in that statement). What I want are stable and established urban neighborhoods where people of every race and income level are accommodated and welcomed. It is an understatement to say that this is a challenge in a market economy, but this is my list and it’s what I want.
-I want shade. There are a couple of places downtown where an attractive tree canopy sets a memorable stage for downtown life. Unfortunately, those places are vastly outnumbered by places devoid of vegetation. The TDOT expansion of US-27 will reduce the area of downtown tree coverage by probably 30%, and in return they are gifting us concrete walls and roads. I don’t think most people understand how seriously this will impact the scale and character of downtown. As we have rolled over on that project, we are left to try to mitigate the damage. This means planting trees anywhere we can.
-I want to be forced out of my car. I love to drive my car. I have always loved to drive. I would dearly love to have a downtown where it is so fun and convenient to walk, bike and use transit that I would prefer that to driving. Penalizing drivers through taxes, parking fees or other policies will ultimately be less effective than creating places that are more fun and convenient to walk/bike/ride through. That’s the old question of carrot v. stick. On my trip last week it would have been easy and cost effective to rent a car at the airport and drive to my destinations. I was willing, however, to take the T and walk dozens of blocks in sub-freezing temperatures, because that was more fun than the car would have been. Oh, the joy of a city where it is more fun to walk around than it is to drive.
-I want a good Chinese restaurant. I have said this before. Good hot and sour soup is one of life’s great joys, and crispy duck is one of the crowning achievements of human kind. Unfortunately, there is no great Chinese restaurant in this county. My vision for downtown includes a great Chinese for both dine-in and take-out. Consider the great cities in our country- they have great Chinese restaurants, if not an entire China-town.
-I want more. More housing, more people, more store, more restaurants, more parks. Density is the defining characteristic of downtown, and the greater the density, the greater the variety of offerings for the community.
I’m sure that there are other things that I want, but this is the best I could do off the top of my head. Please feel to add your comments on what you want below…