Yesterday I recounted the circumstances surrounding the ill-fated project known, only to me, as Gonder Platz. That was intended as simply a preface to a more critical look at the River View project. I will lay out my thoughts on it here. Such an excercise may have little sway upon the reader or value, or even readers. It is more an attempt on my part, to get some thoughts on this once-in-a-lifetime project down in writing.
I am neither a proponent nor an opponent of the project.
I am a proponent of a more densely populated New Albany. I am a proponent of a city which thoughtfully and conscientiously uses its paid-for infrastructure to build a more environmentally responsible forward looking city. Such a city can grow responsibly and in such a way that future generations can see a future here, not simply a starting point on the way to there.
New Albany, as cities go, is pretty average for its size. It has little to exploit, little to differentiate it from any of the thousands of similarly situated cities of comparable size around the country. It matters, really, only to us. Under different circumstances, this blog could as easily be called, "Gonder for Des Moines at-Large". But fate places us here, and now. I am interested in starting here, and using our small, comfortable city as a feasible sensibly-sized place to put into practice and experimentation the things millions of people are learning in their own small, comfortable hometowns around the nation and the world. Never before have we been able to communicate so effortlessly. (I heard recently that a fifteen year old with a smart phone has at his fingers more information than was available to the President of the United States just fifteen years ago. True? I don't know, but it seems plausible.) All that communication should help us keep from making the same mistakes that other cities have made.
It is in that spirit that I offer this information from a not-too-cutting-edge form of communication. This is from Triumph of the City, by Edward Glaeser, Copyright Edward Glaeser, Penguin Press, 2011:
Too many officials in troubled cities wrongly imagine that they can lead their city back to its former glories with some massive construction project--a new stadium or light rail system, a convention center, or a housing project. With very few exceptions, no public policy can stem the tidal forces of urban change. We mustn't ignore the needs of the poor people who live in the Rust Belt, but public policy should help poor people, not poor places.
Shiny new real estate may dress up a declining city, but it doesn't solve its underlying problems. The hallmark of declining cities is that they have too much housing and infrastructure relative to the strength of their economies. With all that supply of structure and so little demand, it makes no sense to use public money to build more supply. (emphasis added)The folly of building-centric urban renewal reminds us that cities aren't structures; cities are people.
Again, I am neither a proponent nor an opponent of Bobo Platz, but I have difficulty seeing how this plan recognizes that "cities aren't structures, cities are people."
To be continued...