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Welcome to Nowhere

Opening with an opening is the way to go for my first blog, I guess.

I have lived in the Chippewa Valley for over 10 years.I was raised in the Bay Area, also known as "The land of the Phantom Freeway." Yes! That&;s the one! In Santa Clara, California. It goes nowhere. It ends in the air, occasionally with a car sitting on the edge like an over told joke. On the 21st of this fine month another nowhere was opened, and most don&;t even realize it. Now, I have driven 53 on a bad day and I understand the frustration all of the drivers out there that could give a rat&;s tail about anything but getting home after working hard here in the valley, but this multi million dollar project overshadows our greater need.

A downtown! We hired one of the best consulting firms in the nation to tell us what we had to do to revitalize our center and then we sat on that report, (more or less) and twiddled along. We have a great start with Phoenix Park, but at the cost of staring at RCU&;s monument to greed. We have a lovely new look where Birch becomes Madison. It frames our new nowhere really well. Our new nowhere has streets that haven&;t been repaved in forever. Our new nowhere can&;t even keep a Burger King and now has buildings sitting empty because many cannot afford to start a business down there.

Is it the rents? Not really, it is the fact that so few people shop there, it&;s like the mall on Christmas day. Our new nowhere has dozens of houses owned by landlords that are raising the rents but refuse to improve upon or, in some cases, provide basic repairs because it may raise the property tax. Our new nowhere has trash along the gutters more now than ever. Our new nowhere is struggling as we keep shipping the money out to the &;burbs by way of a bypass and townhomes going up on the outskirts. Our new nowhere has a dozen different parks, but try to put on a small festival... I lived downtown for 8 years and I watched as many people fought to keep it alive. I am an artist and I tried to make sure I brought my booth to every start up fest in the downtown. I even tried to keep my studio downtown. Hardly anything changed in those 8 years.

I watched the city council block all those folks so many times. Yet, around us was planned, built and promoted a bypass that will keep more people away from Eau Claire. I realize that we can&;t rebuild downtown in a day. However, we will never rebuild if we do not attend cultural events, buy from local markets, shops and artists at small fests. We can&;t lift ourselves if we don&;t lift the face of downtown. We don&;t lift downtown by allowing it to become a place to dump our poor and homeless on back streets while we bring in rich entertainment. We lift by cleaning the sidewalks when we see garbage, helping to find alternative shelter for the homeless and insisting that landlords are held accountable for their properties. We need to prove we love our downtown and we want it to thrive..... Otherwise....Welcome to nowhere....


August 25, 2006 - 10:34pm