Friday, February 28, 2003

Interesting that downtown development would fall under the Industrial Development Board. Hopefully that reflects their desire to do something with all the empty industrial property down there and not the intention to lure industry to downtown. There's some choice buildings downtown and on Walnut Street. Places we are so used to seeing, we wouldn't think of them as having possibility for cool development. Nashville is trying to rehab a sad little part of town known as the Gulch. In fact, that's the "upscale" name they've given it, The Gulch.

I'd like to see that property across from the downtown parking lot turned into loft housing and light commercial. That would open up the corridor and promote foot traffic from the tree streets.

I'd also focus on establishing bike paths and pedestrian-friendly walkways. JC is already a great place for runners -- why not capitalize on that by extending the known running routes into an official pedestrian corridor. Plant lots of laurel and rhododendrons. Install some lighting. Nothing fancy, just functional.

I'd draw a circle around the university, the tree streets, downtown and the new library. Call it something. The name Little Chicago certainly works for me as it suggests history and (egad) hipness, but names don't mean too much unless they come from the bottom up instead of from the top down. See above, The Gulch. It's a crappy name, but it's what it's always been known as the railroad gulch -- so it works. It doesn't have to be THAT descriptive either. The Garden District in New Orleans is a good example. What does Garden District mean? Nothing. It's not like there's any [public] gardens down there. Or Magazine -- what is that? The name of a street. You could call the area the Roan District. that's nice. Goes with Roan Mountain. Plant more laurel and rhododendrons. Viola!

The basic premise of New Urbanism is to preserve a mix of residential and commercial zoning (which you already have) while encouraging pedestrian traffic (which you need). I can see a twist on that would work for a mad little mountain town like JC. The equation would include the usual New Urban mix along with a dash of college-town (granola?) mountain lifestyle infrastructure like the bike paths and trolleys. Call it New Ruralism. I'd look to Asheville, Boulder, and Boone, N.C. for inspiration. Also, maybe Oxford, Ohio. JC is so small there is no reason why the south end of the city couldn't be cultivated into a healthy-outdoors-lifestyle kind of place. I think there's bonus points to be had by promoting mountain sports, arts and music as a tourist draw. I can totally imagine a getaway "vacation" package in JC that would include hiking, rafting, dining at Galloways, music shows at the Down Home and (build it and they will come) shopping in the downtown district. JC could have the mountain-based tourist destination that Pigeon Forge screwed up so freakin' bad. Sure there's nutcases who think a mountain getaway isn't complete without off-price shopping -- but there's just as many people who want to really see mountains, really hear mountain music and see real mountain arts and crafts.

A yearly festival would be a good thing too. Look at what JonesboroUGH did with storytelling for crying out loud. Johnson City could do a big yearly Blues Fest to go with the Little Chicago name. You'd HAVE to have beer sales outside -- so make the most of it and have only local brewers Rocky River, Highlander (Asheville) and whatever the Otter comes up with if they ever start brewing again. The local brewery thing also goes with the bootlegging history associated with Little Chicago. Damn, wouldn't it be fun to have a MOONSHINE FESTIVAL! How much fun would THAT be? Have that coincide with Race Week and you've got a hit! WOOOO hoooo!

Okay, now I'm just babbling.


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