Thursday, July 28, 2005

Observations from the Block Party

It's nice to see a large group of people having fun downtown -- including many recognizable faces like Graham Richard, Geoff Paddock, and Brian Stier -- and enjoying themselves after a hard day at the office. (Or, in my case, after a hard day of watching the Cubs beat the Giants on Jeromy Burnitz's RBI single with two outs in the bottom of the ninth...)

It's good to take the time to recognize that there are places like Columbia Street West downtown that are worth visiting on a regular basis, but let's not mistake a block party for a legitimate step towards a better downtown. The first block party, maybe, but by now people know the drill -- they're not being exposed to anything new or getting excited about the possibilities offered by downtown.

That's not to say I don't think they are valuable; they are. But being there tonight reminded me how important it is to focus on long term ideas and not just cosmetic changes. Sure, we could add a fountain here and a park bench there, but that approach still leaves us with what we've got right now: a pock-marked downtown, with great little islands of innovation or progress nestled amongst decay. What the city needs is a plan that's infectious -- it might start out with a small improvement, but one that leads to another, and another. And these ripple-effect improvements can't come from goverment; it's got to be private citizens investing in downtown because they see it as an business opportunity. It might be up to the city to get the ball rolling, but it's up to the rest of us to ensure it keeps going.

NOTE: I'll have more thoughts on downtown revitalization in the next few weeks.

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