A friend, visiting from Philadelphia, spent some time Saturday in and around Downtown, the North Shore and the Strip District. He remarked that walking from the North Shore to Downtown, he had a tough time finding his way past the David L. Lawrence Convention Center to the streets that lead beyond it.
I'm not surprised. The convention center, in and of itself, is an attractive building, but like much modern architecture, it overwhelms its surroundings, and does not allow for any kind of meaningful street life. (I might add that it seems like an incredible waste of what would otherwise be some of the most valuable Downtown real estate.)
As I discussed in this article, officials say that the convention center has failed to meet expectations because it does not have a large enough adjoining hotel. As I also discussed, this is the same refrain heard in other cities with underperforming convention centers, and the hotels that are built in response--with public money, or publicly owned--also fail to live up to the hype.
It's a viscious circle, and a reminder that cities should try to be, first and foremost, good places to live, and not merely amusements for people who live elsewhere. That's why I agree it is better for Downtown redevelopment to focus on luring residents and not retail. My concern, as I've discussed previously, is that with so many high-end residential projects already online or in the works throughout the city--the North Shore, East Liberty, the South Side, to name a few--is that we may end up with a glut of luxury condos and loft apartments. That's why it's imperative that we hold Jack and Lucas Piatt to their promise not to seek local subsidies--and why they should not seek state subsidies, either. Let them assume the risk, and they'll be welcome to the rewards.