June 13, 2007

JAMES LILEKS ON DOWNTOWN BEAUTIFICATION: “If you’ve ever visited one of those sad deindustrialized cities with a moribund core, you know how they tried to bring the downtown back: banners and trees. If not trees, then flower baskets hanging from ornamental light fixtures. But certainly banners. If you hang something from every block that says History District or Pennsylvania’s Culture: On the Grow or Home of the 2003 Upper West New York Jazz Festival people will come back.”

He’s right that that doesn’t work. But downtown Knoxville has gotten better — the Insta-Daughter and I had lunch downtown on Market Square today (her idea) — and it was a bustling scene. Knoxville tried the trees, banners, brick-paved sidewalk stuff. But what mostly worked was businesses starting on their own, and people moving downtown. There’s now a booming downtown scene, but it’s pretty muched happened spontaneously, not because of the city’s various development schemes, which have been going on since Nixon was President. But one thing has made a difference: Parking! It’s easy and cheap to park, and that’s key.

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