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602 S. Gay Street
Knoxville, TN 37902
Your article, “Downtown’s Next Big Something,” Feb. 2, 2010, was a timely examination of how dollars may be positioned to boost downtown versus creating money pits. Downtown malls, amusement centers, convention centers, and downtown housing complexes represent big splash and lots of cash with high risk. Yes, they do generate jobs for the construction and professional sectors, but limited longer-term benefits often result in failure or middling results.
Incremental investment provides stabilized growth and lower concentrated risk. This has become evident with downtown living in converted buildings, the Regal complex, and increasing numbers of retail and food services. All of these are driven by having convenient, safe, and low-cost parking access. Anyway it is cut, having accessibility when and where people go is tantamount. Large projects, [such] as a convention center, stimulate sales primarily when events are in-town and the attendees elect to shop or use services in the downtown area. Investment in smaller projects provides ongoing sales and increased tax revenues that have potential to be sustainable. Additionally, large projects require extended periods of time to ramp-up to capacity where smaller ones bring capacity up in smaller pieces that can be more readily absorbed into the growing community.
For the city planners, give us lower-cost and lower-risk projects with planned growth we can bank on. Piece by piece, the downtown area can comeback to a sustained life. Will it be as it was in the 1930-1955 era? Absolutely not. But it can be part of a balanced plan growing city and suburbs, without burdening the taxpayers.