Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Downtown proponents want "Vibrant"

Main Entry: vi·brant
Pronunciation: \-brənt\
Function: adjective
Date: 1616
1 a (1): oscillating or pulsating rapidly (2): pulsating with life, vigor, or activity

The Urban County Council was told today that the people want downtown to be "vibrant" in order to retain the "young professionals" that we have leaving the city in droves. Or at least that is what I got from the article in the Herald Leader, written by our own "Rita Skeeter" Beverly Fortune. Lexington needs to do more to bring in
a wide array of cultural activities, which are characterized by festivals (more disorganized uses in the public spaces), bar, restaurants and other unnamed activities designed to separate you from your money. The proponents seem to require the governments help in generating the activity in the downtown area that they cannot create, even though they have spent $200 million of their own money trying.

Downtown does need to have more activity at night than it does now, but adding large numbers of music clubs and nothing else in a certain area for night time vigor will only create a dead zone during the day. We saw that with the CentrePointe block for the past few years. Another way of getting night time activity is downtown residential and we have built a substantial number of new condos in the last few years, but they are not affordable, nor are they sized for the urban family (three bedrooms or more).

Lexington does need to have more use of its public open space, but that does not mean structured activities each and every weekend with a festival or parade of some sort, just allow the people to assemble to do what the wish (within reason) and give the citizens back the streets. When the crowds attain critical mass the retail will follow.

The article did have some suggestions for bringing "vibrancy" to downtown. One of those was revamping the sign ordinance and allowing overhanging signs again. Maybe the flashing, pulsating kind that characterized the '30's -'50's . Or maybe, a sign review committee to permit signage. One supporter suggested "taking our foot off the brake", but from my reading the ordinance for downtown zones, they pretty much allow for most of these uses already.

The chairman of the Downtown Entertainment Task Force said, people want to see aggressive recruiting of "entrepreneurial activities downtown.", yet such aggressive action takes time and money, and as we saw over the weekend the Airport has come under scrutiny for their "aggressive recruiting" by their manager. Lexington would have to hire a recruiter, give them a budget of public funds, identify the specific needs and go after someone to fill the need. That sounds like a full staff to me. One more government department in times of shrinking revenue.

Government should do what the people cannot do for themselves, not will not do for themselves. Let the people create the vibrant downtown that the people want and let government stand back and smile and nod approvingly.

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