Friday, January 18, 2013

This Won't Win Me Any Friends But...

Can we be a bit more realistic about the gigantic surface lot behind the library? I have felt for a long time that the number one priority for Worcester should be doing anything, ANYTHING, to create a densely populated, majority middle class, urban neighborhood in this city. Really, anything short of doing something that is actually going to kill people this NEEDS to happen.

I was thinking about this today and in what has become a familiar theme on this blog I thought, well, what do other cities do? Do other cities comparable to Worcester have gigantic municipal lots adjacent to their library building? Never mind lots that are close to twice the size of the building itself? I decided to find out.

Lowell? No
Springfield? No
New Haven? No
Manchester? Not adjacent but close by and tiny
Bridgeport? Yes, about 30 spaces
Portland? No
Waterbury? Yes, but small
Syracuse? No
Albany? Yes, but small
Rochester? No
New Bedford? No
Buffalo? Possibly: 2 level deck, not adjacent, but a block away.

It has always irked me how on one hand Worcester wonders why it can't turn itself around, but on the other hand insists on doing things differently than everyone else time and time again and wondering why it never turns out well. Kind of like a chef who insists on being a trend setter but continues to put out food that tastes like shit. We have been lucky to have this lot next to the library for as long as we have. By all things that make sense as far as urban design goes it should never have been there in the first place. There are compromises to be made however. We can still put a building on the corner of Salem and Myrtle and have plenty of free municipal parking left over. Still much more than any of the above cities can boast for their public libraries. We can build a parking garage and offer validation to Library patrons (this one is a bit trickier however). Either way there are things to discuss here. This plan is a good one. The tone I am hearing that we should throw the whole thing out over the potential loss of a municipal lot that shouldn't even be there in the first place is capital C crazy to me. I am not sold either of course. I think all of these plans should also be presented with a marketing strategy as to exactly how the mixed use spaces will be filled once completed.
Please though, let's try to get this one going and figure out a way to all stand behind it. There is nothing this city needs more than a real mixed use urban neighborhood densely populated with market rate owners and renters and the businesses, amenities, and employers that will service them. There needs to be a neighborhood in urban Worcester that people want to live in. This neighborhood has the chance to be that with this plan.