Your article on the glib Mr. Gibbs (GT, 11/3) reminded me of a Downtown Association meeting I attended 10 (?) years ago when he made his first report. I was most impressed by the fact that he got $60,000 for cruising Pacific Avenue and writing a 10-page report that made the very astute observation that our traffic pattern was odd. I suggested that we might benefit from making the street a pedestrian mall, as had many other coastal towns—a benefit we see now. He demurred, noting that Santa Monica’s huge success was only because they had a department store at one end … the store was in the process of closing at the time, predictably. He also told the old guard of the DTA what they wanted to hear: that parking spaces in front of their stores was key to their survival. Clearly, it wasn’t.
Mr. Gibbs—like many of our city leaders, and the old real-estate families in charge of downtown—still thinks that parking will save us from Amazon and odd retail ideas and high rents and tax laws that allow buildings to sit empty. We plow ahead with covering our one central event space with more parking and the library, since the combination will be easier to finance and give our leaders a legacy building. This will be a five-minute walk from three existing parking structures that they can’t fill at $3.75 a day now, and after we spend a fair amount of money on plans to fix the current library, which is described by a prominent local architect as a 100-year building that has a lot next to it for expansion and transition.
As a frequent client of our best and one of our few downtown events, the Farmers Market, I would suggest that more events in a spruced-up event space would benefit us most. We used to have an Art and Wine festival and a First Night. I asked a former council member why no more, and was told they were too much trouble. I can’t think of a better use of our DTA and Economic Development department. I would also suggest visiting the website of my boyhood home—Wausau Wisconsin, thriving downtown with a population of only 40,000, middle of farmland, no tourism and beautiful central plaza with a bandstand shell and stage. Our large community of artists and musicians might like it.
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