Friday, March 16, 2007
When is a faux revitalized downtown better than a real one? A recent edition of the Economist discusses the largely unsuccessful efforts of San Jose, Cal. (now one of the largest and most affluent cities in the nation) its wake up its moribund downtown with subsidies, tax breaks, etc. But theaters, offices, and public transportation can't make Silicon Valley residents socialize in downtown San Jose.
Where are people going? To the mall, of course. But not just any mall. Private developers have noticed that people like to dine outside (especially in the mild California climate), like to stroll past nicely designed stores, and especially like to do so with giant parking lots nearby and security guards making sure that the experience is safe. Hence the boom in manufactured "downtown" nightlife streets, such as Santana Row in San Jose, opened by private developers in 2002. Other examples include the much-ballyhooed Reston Town Center in the outer Virginia suburbs of Washington, and Bay Street, attached to an upscale mall in Tampa. Yes, bring back the city, but maybe bring it back by starting from scratch, and doing it in the suburbs…