Tuesday, February 20, 2007

More Thoughts on "Last Call"

Will the development along the 7th Street corridor chip away at those things that many of us love about Fort Worth? That's the question the Startlegram asked on Sunday. Some folks seemed to think the article was a little off the mark, a little bit chicken little.

I disagree. I think the article asks an important question.

Fort Worth is a big city that still functions on a human scale. It’s much more egalitarian than Dallas – I go to the grocery store and see Jim Wright, I go to a restaurant and see Ed Bass or Van Cliburn. I spend a lot of time in Dallas, and you just don’t see the movers and the shakers out and about. Why? Because they aren’t going to the same places you are. Everything is much more stratified.

I like going to places like Fred’s where the yuppies and the freaks and the regular people can all get together and have a burger and cold one. That’s what I worry about Fort Worth losing. I’m not one of those people who thinks new equals bad. I think Fort Worth needs this. But I am a little skeptical because I know what happens when good intentions collide with the profit motive.

Look at the development that’s happened in Dallas over the past 20 years: is there any “there” there anymore? There are lots of new, shiny places, but a lot of the development has been at the expense of the buildings and neighborhoods that make Dallas authentic. Is there anything left of State-Thomas in the Uptown neighborhood? Is the new Knox-Henderson an improvement over the old one? Will there be anything left of turn of the (last) century Deep Ellum after the neighborhood gets yet another makeover?

Maybe I’m looking at it the wrong way. I like a little grit. As Tom Waits once said about his beatnik poem “Ninth and Hennepin” about life on the other side of the tracks in America, when you ask someone about Ninth and Hennepin now, they say, “Oh, yeah, my wife bought some sandals there.” Like Tom, I’m not sure this is a good thing.

Does 7th Street need a facelift? Yes. Is it going to happen? Yes. Will it be done thoughtfully and without sacrificing the things that make the city authentic? That remains to be seen. I’m glad people are talking about it. But will it matter?

Photo by Tim Cummins

For another take on this: See Kevin's blog FortWorthology.

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