Monday, July 1, 2013

When Change Comes To The Neighborhood

One of the downsides of the steady progression new business opportunities, otherwise known as re-gentrification, in presently lower income residential parts of town is the impact of parking created by non-local clientele. It is evidencing itself along Jefferson St and, to some extent, North Limestone beyond Sixth St. On site off street parking is at a premium and on street parking can create neighborliness as well as safety issues.

Though I am not a beer drinker, I have been to the West Sixth Brewing building on several occasions and some of them were real “events”. Their expanding scope and number of symbiotic tenants in addition to other outside developments point to the need for more parking in the area, hopefully without raising the ire of local residents.

Let us hope that they will not follow examples from the past.

The University Plaza shopping center was built in the early '70s, just about the time that campus and city planners were looking at ways to relieve the central campus of through traffic by building wider new streets.

Cooper Dr was being connected, the Kirwan-Blanding towers complex built and University Dr was to continue on, bisecting the Clifton Heights/Aylesford subdivisions and following a widened Woodland Avenue to Main St. The neighborhood was declining and the University had its sights set on expanding eastward.

Euclid Avenue, and it continuation The Avenue of Champions, was to connect the growing Tates Creek Pike area with the then proposed roadway through Davis Bottoms and on toward Newtown Pike at its intersection at West Main St.

The intersection of a widened Euclid and a probably four-lane Woodland Avenue appeared to be prime real estate for a commercial center which would only grow larger with the added student population. The North – South Expressway was set to slice between the campus and downtown, Urban Renewal was moving ahead along Main and Vine and the “muscle car” age of the automobile was powering along. Nobody even saw the “gas crisis” of “73 until OPEC became a household word.

The University Plaza was also the site of a small dining/disco named the Library Lounge. A sedate restaurant during the day and a tight packed, meat market, dance club at night. It was a place that you could take your parents to lunch when they were in town, then tell them that your were spending your evenings at the library – implying that you were studying.

The limited parking, which is no better today, meant that patrons would park some 1 ½ to 2 blocks away and not blocking residential driveways was not always a top priority. Towing services sometimes had get creative in order to remove vehicles. Parking problems, the perceived need to drive there and the waning of disco led to the demise of the Library, while the roadway expansions faded into just memories.

There were numerous contentious encounters between the neighbors and the University Plaza/Library owners which don't seem to be occurring as yet on the North side of town. I doubt that many residents can fully comprehend the effect that the new BCTC campus will have on the neighborhood or what increased business will do to North Limestone and I am leaving out the concept of removing the one-way status.

Today's mass transit environment is vastly different that the '70s and even the taxi service is much improved. I also believe that efforts are being made to keep all parties involved in what is happening, yet still I can see evidence that elements of neighborhood resistance are present.

When dining with the family last Friday at County Club, I again noticed that the parking lot of the Pilgrim Baptist Church was gated and locked and streams of autos cruised by looking for a space to park. It is certainly within the purview of the church to control their property but to some it looks like an opportunity for revenue enhancement. Maybe this is will sort itself out over time as it has in many other locations and become a benefit for all concerned.

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