Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Is Downtown what you think it is?

At Tuesday's council work session there was a presentation of the results of the Downtown Lexington Corporation's survey about peoples perceptions of downtown.

The survey was taken, by phone, early in August of only 400 or so Lexington residents. These residents were evenly divided between inside New Circle Rd and out. It seems that they tried to cross all age ranges evenly, but the 18-24 year old group looks a little sparse. Could this be because they don't have "land line phones"? I have participated in surveys before although the Mrs. says that I don't, and I know that what, how and when questions are asked all influence the way the answers are tabulated. Survey designers can make the questions suit the pre-conceived ideas of the client. You can go here to read the results and see if you believe the way they think that you do.

So, do you really know just what downtown is? Is your definition the same as your neighbors? Heavens be, mine is not close to the Mrs. Our age difference and where we grew up and when, all influence how we define downtowns. To me, going to town was a half hour walk down to Main St. and the movies. To her, it was a half hour car ride to find a place to park and then some torturous ordeal such as "back to school shopping". What about you? What is your early remembrance of downtown? It wont matter if it is Lexington or not. What this report is really saying is "Why don't you believe me when I tell you what downtown is?" or "How can we change your mind to what we say it is?"

I have posted elsewhere that the majority of people in Lexington feel that "downtown", that nebulous shifting somewhere, is generally an impediment to getting where they want to go. That area that I have to go through or around to get to the mall/airport/co-workers house. Going downtown is analogous to going to Chicago, when you are actually going to Skokie. It's just in the neighboring area but everyone knows where Chicago is. Most people in America think about downtown like they think about police or fire departments, as long as you are not bothering me, its fine. But as soon as I NEED you , you had better be there.

If the powers that be really want to change the preception of downtown for people, then change what people think is wrong with downtown. That wasn't a question on the survey, "whats wrong?", now was it? Does that mean that there is nothing wrong with downtown? No, there plenty wrong with downtown, thats why we have all those consultants studies(Wayfinding, Downtown Master Plan, Streetscape Master Plan, Downtown Facilities Study, Economic Development Study). They are all costly and at times, at odds with each other and usually at odds with those who wish to spend their money for something different. These studies generally reveal the desires of the stratified few in Lexington who requested the study and only lip service to the wishes of common citizen. Is this any different from other cities? I don't think so.

Well, let me know what you think and we'll keep delving into this report.

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