Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, March 5, 2003 at 1:00am

Best minds need to go downtown


Thank you for William Williams' two good pieces (Feb. 17, "Living downtown," p. 13; Feb. 19, "Nashville reborn," p. 13) and your instructive editorial on the subject of downtown residential use, and why there's not enough of it (Feb. 20, "Nashville needs to take lead in downtown living").

No sane person wants the downtown we have now, with empty buildings and dreary surface parking lots among its prevailing features. Downtown's problem is worse than Williams describes, actually, since he writes about only the residential side of the equation. There is an equally frightening absence of retail commerce.

Imagine a guest at the marvelous Hermitage Hotel needing a hometown newspaper; there's no general newsstand downtown. If he wants to see a movie, there's no theater. A current best-seller? There's no bookstore. And so it goes. Upscale commerce has deserted downtown, leaving little to lure either tourists or local shoppers.

How is it that so many cities have achieved a downtown renaissance that hasn't happened here? Most cities report aggressive action and facilitating attitudes in the city government are absolutely essential. Certainly our current condition shows that a free-market approach, if that's what we have in Nashville, hasn't worked. But some major government initiatives haven't worked either - remember the ill-fated Church Street Center? How can we do better?

Someone needs to convene a summit at which some of our best minds explore the question, What will it take to bring vitality to downtown Nashville? One would like to hear from investors, stakeholders, developers, bankers, corporate leaders, realtors, architects, public sector experts and academics. It would be especially interesting to hear owners of boarded-up buildings explain why there are no revenue- (and tax-) producing activities in their buildings, at least above street level, and what is needed to bring about a change. As things stand, downtown is a tragedy.



Change of heart about war protests


During the past few weeks, I've been watching the various anti-war demonstrations with considerable interest. You see, I've managed to learn a few things from the no-war-in-Iraq crowd that I did not heretofore know. For example: If the United States uses military force against a nation that has broken the terms of a cease-fire agreement, it's considered a "pre-emptive strike."

No international crisis is so complex that staging a march and singing John Lennon tunes cannot solve it.

Filed under: City Voices