Sunday, December 17, 2006

Downtown efforts leave empty feeling - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Here is the rub. Chamber of Commerce folks and the PDP (Pgh Downtown Partnership) want big programs, big taxes, big organizations and big lies. Meanwhile, real people vote with their feet. The marketplace is too fluid and too much of a force for the big central planning types who are big, slow and stupid.

At this point in time, the volume of merchants who know best are long gone. There are not enough of the sensible around to counter act the big-time jokers who aim to soil our landscape by grabbing what they can for themselves with the next massive programming ploy.
Downtown efforts leave empty feeling - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Taxes are a problem, said Gerald Schiller, part-owner of several family-owned properties along Forbes Avenue and a frequent critic of government-driven rehabilitation efforts. 'Retailers are deserting Downtown, because they are being phased out of business by the city's tax policy.'

Schiller is particularly disturbed by a Business Improvement District tax increase on retailers. The 3.92-mill assessment, which provides money for the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, will increase by 5 percent annually for the next five years. The tax is levied against property owners in a 90-block area.

Barbara McNees, president of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce, supports the tax increase.

'We must keep Downtown safe and clean, not only for its current retailers and residents, but for visitors, new residents and others in the Downtown area,' she said.
We need real benchmarks too. Let's say things are going well, when they are not. Let's look at office vacancy rates -- but exclude the Lazarus Building. What's up with that? We have way to many blind spots, by design.

Those who make the rules, rule.

I have no hope that the new investment of $35-million for Point State Park will save downtown.

I have no hope that the new T-stop at Gateway Center is really needed to revitalize Fifth & Forbes.

I have no hope that the half-billion dollar tunnels under the Allegheny River will turn things around either. What's the attraction of the underground T? Were people afraid to swim across the river for shopping and cheering for the Pirates?

The surge in residential units is because the value of commercial spaces is at such an all time low.

We have more people willing to move downtown because less are willing to live in our neighborhoods.

They are thinning. They are taking away high-rise buildings and replacing them with green spaces. They are getting rid of density. They are putting capacity out by the airport and other green fields while they are doing demolitions on density and urban spaces.

Our economic engine is not on a rebound. We've choked the hope. We have places to sleep, but few place to earn a pay check are willing to locate here.

We're turning into a slumbering little town. Everyone that says we are building momentum are sleeping. Wake up soon, before the marketplace leaves the state.


Anonymous said...

I recently bought a condo downtown, and I love being here. Pittsburgh is a great city that offers me so much of what I want. I would like to see a grocery store nearer by, but the strip district serves me well. The most bothersome thing about being downtown is the do nothing attitude about lawless driving. 50 mph is too fast for these small downtown streets; yet cars travel this fast all the time. If the city would start giving out big tickets for endangering pedestrians, it would be a big help. Also, if buses would turn off their engines when parked, it would help cutdown on particulates in the atmosphere. Other than that, downtown is a great place to live. Of course the additional mass transportation systems will help cut-down on pollution.

I also think that selling a weekday downtown driving pass, as they do in Singapore, would greatly help the city. It would raise revenue, and encourage using mass transportation. Make it free on weekends with free parking too to get people shopping here instead of at the malls, but keep some traffic out during the week. There could also be some kind of validation scheme. Shop in a department store, and get your fee back, etc.

BTW, I understand that the park at the point is being remodelled. I hope that some fun spaces are included. It's the biggest park downtown, but there are no ball fields or basketball courts, etc. I would like to get my exercise out in the oxygen rich air of the park, but the park is just full of historical stuff. This is great for tourists, but not so great for downtowners. Even some chess tables would be great. If you want more people downtown, then you have to give them amenities. It seems to me that the policies for the downtown are a bit schizophenic. Policy makers want to keep some people out of the park, but they want people there too. Put in the amenities, get the people there, generate retail revenue, then worry about getting the vagrants and panhandlers out.

Mark Rauterkus said...

I agree with the statements about Point State Park. This is a passive park and that stinks. It can be both active and passive.

And, they didn't ask real people about this.

I also think that the bus routes downtown can be changed a great deal to help matters there with walkers, drivers and uses of mass transit.