Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Take Back the City

I attended Saturday’s presentation on the thirty-five million dollar police station in what I’m told was the ‘old Sears Building’ in a then bustling, downtown Norwich that could have been a Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post magazine cover but had ceased to exist at some point in the Sixties.

To hear those times described by folks who lived here then and wore much younger persons’ clothes, those were the days of Big Cotton. If only the past could be the Present what need of a future would we have? As it turns out, the concern might be better phrased as what kind of a future will we have?  

Who among us ‘new residents’ hasn’t heard how downtown was so crowded on Thursday nights that the children, well-behaved (of course), attentive and ever-mindful on the hands of their moms and dads, had to walk in the streets around Franklin Square because the sidewalks were so jammed with shoppers there was just no place else to go.

Not that much later, we did figure out someplace (else) to go, thanks to the interstate highway system and away we went, leaving Chelsea with a morass of one-way streets that make sure you can’t get there from here, a lot of empty buildings in various states of disrepair and disrepute and misty-water colored memories of the way we were.

I’ve only been to half the meetings on the police station but there are two issues, in my opinion, at work here, joined at the PowerPoint slide but not actually sharing a common reality.

What I’ve come away with so far at two very poorly attended meetings is that people are  supportive and vocal in that support, of the Norwich Police Department, and agree with the Chief of Police when he very gently suggests the current station is less than adequate.

The descriptive used Saturday was ‘transform’ which led me to thoughts of Megan Fox, lots of thoughts (some salacious to be honest), but we didn’t mean those Transformers.

What was offered instead was the same rationale that created the Wauregan Hotel, the Mercantile Exchange, the Haymarket Building and half a dozen other public money projects-what I call the Single Building Conspiracy- at a total cost of close to one hundred million dollars but didn’t get enough people into downtown to fill a phone booth assuming those still existed.  

We are assured this time we can't miss (or at least we hope so). Just a little more patience is all we need and we’ll see downtown bloom again. This is a lot like Saul on the road to Damascus and suspending belief while helpful isn't necessarily hopeful. And that's the rub. Hope is always important but hope is not a plan and Norwich needs a plan more than downtown needs another transformative building.
-bill kenny

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