Thursday, June 11, 2009

Thinking About The NorthSide Project

Has there been a proposal with more potential to transform the image of this city since, say 1950? I am extremely excited to learn of these plans. I've always been kind of resentful that the north side doesn't seem as devoted to urban renewal as the south and central corridor. The roadblocks toward grand scale redevelopment are enormous and intimidating. The disinvestment mentality is entrenched and pervasive. However, now that could all change.

I am reluctant to form too many opinions and weigh in on this one just yet. First of all, I don't know the north side as well as the rest of the city. There aren't many restaurants, businesses, people or places that draw me to this part of town. Yet, I've been taking evening scooter rides throughout the north side, trying to get a feel for this place.

Secondly, I don't have enough information or understanding of whether or not this McKee NorthSide plan can really come to fruition in my lifetime. My greatest fears are that the naysayers/racists/social crusaders will turn this guy away without offering or contributing to a better plan. My next fear is that the history of the city (street grid, street names, small commercial spaces mixed with residential) is lost and we end up with a Hanley Industrial Court feel to the near northside, with very little residential added. One way streets, cul de sacs, large surface parking lots and light industry and warehouses in the form of generic/soulless shacks scares me. However, I am way, way more optimistic than pessimistic. Just the fact that someone has taken the initiative to draw up a plan to redevelop a large part of our city that has been ignored by residents of those neighborhoods and the general citizenry is a good start.


I am bummed that McKee was called a racist at the church meeting in May (3min 3 sec in, by a white dude nonetheless). I am bummed that when this guy went off (complete with F-bombs), some clapped. I am bummed that these meetings took place in a church. I think that's bush league. Ideally, the city would be making this a professional pitch at city hall to the entire city, not pandering to the same old racial/parochial issues that have plagued this city for far too long. I wish Slay was standing side by side with McKee, with Geisman and the entire board of aldermen sitting proudly behind them as these plans are rolled out. A show of solidarity, strength, confidence and hope to bring the entire city into this discussion. Not the same old aldermanic courtesy, regional politics and pandering to the few remaining residents' narrow vision of what's good for the city.

I wish Michael Allen and Steve Patterson were selected by the city to lead a citizen's committee with the directive to preserve the remaining history and enhance the connectivity/live-ability of the northside as it relates to the McKee plan. The aforementioned are the only guys I trust when it comes to logical approaches to what will/won't work on the north side. I would feel WAY more optimistic about this plan had McKee/city govt. not gone to the residents first, but rather consulted with who I consider to be the strongest, most intelligent voices/minds on the topics mentioned above.

Whatever ends up happening, it will be historic. Will the status quo players make the decisions and provide the "community input", where churches, pastors and a single alderperson have the strongest voice in shaping our city's near northside; or, will this be a city wide effort that enlists the brightest minds on sustainable development to make this opportunity a huge benefit to our city for years to come?

Will this project be the impetus to saving the city? Making the North an equal contributor in tax revenue, people, density, businesses as the south and central city? Or, will this be another failure?


  1. Good lord! McKee has NOT gone to the residents at all on this project. He flashed a powerpoint in a church hall a few days prior to the TIF application and that is it. You want a citizen's panel involved.. ok that sounds great... run by a couple of urban bloggers, ok, fine... but not the residents of the area? That is pretty harsh. Lots and lots of civic-minded folks all over the 5th Ward would like to get involved to promote positive development in our community.

  2. ^ Kit, thanks for reading. My main point is that we need to enlist the brightest minds in the region on smart/sustainable planning and development, not the hoi polloi who've lived there for years. Chances are they have opinions, but no real expertise in planning/politics. Trust me, I'm not on a high horse on this one, I fall in the meager resident camp, not the academic/educated urbanist camp. Cheers

  3. I heard McKee on KWMU this morning. He said he has been at all kinds of community meetings. Don't shoot the messenger.