Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Rhymes with Witching

I had a moment of (self) revelation not unlike that of Saul on the road to Damascus on a late afternoon errand to the Norwichtown Commons in the days shortly before this past Thanksgiving holiday.

What it told me about myself, and how comfortable I am with that truth, has come to color how I look at 'progress' and 'risk-taking' when the talk in Norwich turns to economic development as it so often does. I use it as a measurement though of how far we've come or how far we've yet to go, I'm unsure. Perhaps we're sojourning together.

I came over the bridge on the Town Street side leading into the parking area about an hour after sundown and was nearly halted in my tracks. From as far as my eyes could see, ranging from the far left of the Stop and Shop through all the way to the right, what at the time was still the unfinished but under construction space (that is now Planet Fitness), there were cars and trucks parked everywhere and folks with shopping carts hurrying and scurrying in and out of all the shops and storefronts.

And what was my reaction to this display of unshirted hustle and bustle? After all, perhaps like you, I had watched a two decades-long decline of the former Norwichtown Mall until it was barely on life support. It had become one of the saddest places I could ever imagine

I had fretted and wrung my hands at a commercial footprint that shrank until all that was left was the grocery, the Dress Barn and, if memory serves me correctly, a Dollar Tree Store still inside the 'mall.' Everything else was gone, having followed the shoppers who used to frequent them to other points of interest, most beyond the city limits.

When first whispers and then, later, published accounts of the property's sale surfaced followed by an informational meeting with the new owners and developer to a full-but-not-full-to-overflowing audience was held at city hall, I hoped the hard luck dogging the site was history. What I should have remembered and now will never forget is that the only thing that overcomes hard luck is hard work.

And here I was confronted by the results of all that hard work. Believe it or not, I wasn't happy, nope, not at all. Seriously, where was I supposed to find a parking space and how far would I now have to walk? If only we had stores where I could take the car in with me. Yes, I am that special someone who would complain if you hanged me with a new rope.

And if you're unhappy, as I've heard some are, with the businesses currently in the Norwichtown Commons, maybe we can get a discount on that rope by buying it in bulk. Then again, I'm not sure we have enough trees but looking at the bright side, we'd have something else to complain about. And on the way to Damascus or just to tomorrow, often that's the biggest concern.
-bill kenny

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