Saturday, February 07, 2009

Where Are the Prophets When You Need Them?

I've been quiet on the goings on a half block down and across the street on S. Elm. And yeah, I have an opinion.

Parking downtown stinks. That's just a fact. If I didn't have a parking lot for my building I'd be mighty frustrated. I doubt I'd come down here very often because of the parking. The businesses up and down the 300 block of S Elm are doing their best to make it with poor parking options (and without city incentives).

It takes a lot of dough to renovate these old buildings. How come the city can't make that process easier? And for real, I walk around a lot down here. I think the city could do a lot more to help with the parking other than writing $25 tickets which is what the guys at the barber were talking about yesterday. There are a lot of empty lots here and there, and we could even build a architecturally appropriate parking deck if we wanted to.

Every building in this block is old, or, if it isn't, it was built to fit the rest of the architecture. The thing they plan to put up in that lot on S. Elm is going to butt ugly in context and stick out like a sore thumb. It will steal much of the charm away from the block and further diminish the "cool" factor for people wanting to come down here enough to put up with pathetic parking problem.

So after the new building and its proprietary parking lot takes away thirty some parking spaces that otherwise would be for patrons of local businesses, well, where are people visiting the other businesses supposed to park? I have a real problem as a taxpayer knowing my tax money is going to be given unjustly to the fancy-dancy new developer and at the same time further hinder the ability of the shop owners to survive. Maybe a tax revolt would be in order. It's enough to turn me off from downtown entirely.

Once again the monied interests win out, and the developers on our council sit on their hands and look the other way. It's a nice little racket they've got going here.

It reminds me of some things I have read in my Bible:

Woe to those who join house to house,
who add field to field,
until there is no more room,
and you are made to dwell alone
in the midst of the land (Isaiah 5:8).

Woe to those who devise wickedness
and work evil on their beds!
When the morning dawns, they perform it,
because it is in the power of their hand.
They covet fields and seize them,
and houses, and take them away;
they oppress a man and his house,
a man and his inheritance (Micah 2:1-2).

Basically Isaiah and Micah were talking about developers, monied influence-peddlers who "influenced judges" so as to take over the land of those less able to sway the foxes looking out for the hen house.

The city council is the judge in this scenario, and rather than doing what is right it succumbs the the influence peddling of the developer set. I just wonder what deals got cut in the country clubs or in the dark chambers hidden away from public view - and how did the council come to change it's mind so abruptly? Very strange if you ask me.

So, a guy is going to make a three and a half million "investment" in ruining a very nice block and discouraging hard working small business owners - wow, I'm all ga ga. Doing wrong by the people who have been working so hard to make a living and promote downtown isn't worth ten times that much.

Amos, Isaiah, Jeremiah, we need you guys here to kick some serious butt.

And while you're at it can you get the developer interests and their proxies to find a place for the homeless to stay during the day and night?

Joel Gillespie
301 South Elm


Sue said...

I've been talking about this for years now (original blog post in 2005). Other cities know how to do it with public-private partnerships, but when we brought that idea back from an Action Greensboro trip to Greenville, people just complained (PUBLIC money??). Developers and the City have to work together to provide sensible downtown parking that is attractive to shoppers and we just haven't yet done it. I remain hopeful but am getting tired of waiting.

Joel said...

I very much agree with your "rant" from 2005. Well said. Sue, I really don't think this is rocket science. I mean, there is a lot of space within a couple of blocks of Elm.

When it comes to a downtown, parking is an infrastructure issue. Public-private partnerships are totally appropriate.

You're right about parking decks such as we have them. They are behemoths and I can't stand parking in them either, well, except for the Davie Street one, that's OK (AND it backs right up to an entrance to that little "mall" thing off Elm). I'd go somewhere else. Many dense urban areas have smaller and very accessible parking "decks." I lived three years in Vancouver and have spent a lot of time in Toronto and they are all over the place. But you're right, the emphasis should be on ground level if possible and I think we have the space.

I just can't help but wonder - what REALLY happened between those votes?