Monday, September 12, 2011

Venice Calling

The Traverse City Commission will consider the Bayfront Plan tonight and what to do about the Spirit Of Traverse City.

I will be telling them I support moving forward with redeveloping Clinch Park without the train even though I have a child who cried when told this might be the last year for the train. (She stopped crying when told there could be a splash park instead and she said that sounded more fun and wouldn't be smelly).

Nostalgia can wound a city.

Venice, Italy was once the center of an ocean-going empire and a key city-state during the Renaissance. But today it has become obsessed with nostalgia and the residents who remain do not let it change. In response the city is literally fading away. It is drowning under a rising ocean and losing population because no one there actually does anything. Or as The Guardian said in 2006: Population decline set to turn Venice into Italy's Disneyland

For comparison, in 1929 New York City tore down the historic Waldorf Astoria hotel to build the Empire State building. A new Waldorf Astoria was built and the Empire State Building became the city's iconic structure.

Let's be less like Venice and more like New York. I want Traverse City to be more than an amusement park in city form that people come to visit. I want it to be a city full of people who do things.

The new Bayfront Park will likely bring more stature to TC than the Spirit of Traverse City has. It is a design that encourages people to do things. This doesn't mean the train cannot be kept and moved elsewhere, but a train at Clinch Park is incompatible with the vision that was developed.

On a final note, please don't take this to mean that in every case we should move out with the old in with the new. Like everything else, a city needs to find a balance between what it keeps and what it replaces with something better. Like how I choose to live in a 19th Century house full of 21st Century technology.