Monday, June 25, 2012

North of Center: On the Proposal That Downtown Lexington Converts to Two-Way Streets

Here's North of Center's commentary on the Lexington Herald-Leader article by Scott Sloan "Fugate calls development of Limestone, Cheapside districts top successes downtown.":

Interview today with David Fugate, the new director for the [Lexington, KY] Downtown Development Authority. In it, he weighs in positively on 2-way street conversion. "The question of two-way streets needs to be an economic one. Will two-way streets downtown increase commerce and investment downtown?"

First off, notice how Fugate frames the question: it's a 1% fealty to commerce and investment--and that only. Fugate is not concerned with pedestrian walkability, nor with the increased pollution, or increased traffic or increased traffic accidents. These quality of life issues that come along with 2-way streets are subservient to increasing downtown investment.

Second, Fugate's not talking about Local First shops investing downtown--these places have already located on and spurred development along 1-way streets. It's the national retailers that are demanding 2-way streets. He calls it "the wisdom of national retailers who heavily weigh two-way streets in site location." So while he says that downtown shouldn't become like a mall environment, that is precisely the type of businesses he's talking about attracting. This is the real driver of the change, not the feel-good "downtown vibrancy" or "pedestrian-friendly" reasons cited by cover-up politicians (hello Steve Kay!). Big box-store type national retail outlets value two-way streets, so that's what county residents will have to pay for.

Third, he cites "case-studies of cities that have taken the plunge without heavy regret." This is interesting because none of these case studies have been reported--though David Shattuck in NoC has cited several cities that have had problems with 2-way conversions....not to mention the "regret" many residents surely feel from sitting in more traffic, polluting more, and being in more danger from auto, bike and pedestrian accidents.

In the next issue, Shattuck will let you know how much money and effort will go into converting 2-way streets to get more downtown mall-type national retailers. Corporate-first Lexington!

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