Letter to the City Paper:
Barely weeks after City Hall went into the hotel business, the selective socialists ring in again, this time in Hampden, hon ("Life on a Different Avenue," Mobtown Beat, Aug. 31). The recent effort by Mr. Atomic Books to curb chain-style development in "his" neighborhood completely misses all of Hampden's social and economic issues by a city mile.
I can assure Benn Ray and Rachel Whang that efforts to develop the Avenue and the Rotunda have been in the works for the last seven years. The no-chain-store policy has been Hampden's default position, because no chain store would come, given the crime and income levels in the area. To understand the effects of such a policy, look at Hampden today. Tawdry signage, bad retail, decay, and vacancy. Go to the Avenue on any Friday or Saturday night and you'll see tattooed-pierced-drunken-screaming-bottle-smashing-brawling chaos, dark storefronts, and litter. It's kind of cute during the day, though. There's a flamingo and all.
Now, with a smattering of pioneers gentrifying (overused word) the area, prosperity looms. Unless some misguided souls derail the process under the guise that there is some significant culture here to be preserved, like an aboriginal tribe in the rain forest.
Chain stores bring jobs (with management positions) and stability to vacant tenant spaces the whole country over. They bring better-lit sidewalks and heightened security. They survive in this world because they offer good products at fair prices and people like them. People like them so much, they travel great distances to be in their general vicinity, which benefits the entire business community and creates local employment and a greater tax base.
Character happens, it is not legislated into being. To compare Hampden to some boutique San Francisco community with nutty California laws is just plain silly. The Rotunda is a beautiful historic site that is perfectly suited, like the Power Plant, for big development such as a Barnes and Noble (stiff competition for little Atomic, eh, Mr. Ray?). With Outbacks and Bennigans come Ray Lewis Full Moon Bar-B-Ques and Babalu Grills. Do those fit the vision? If there was a Chili's in Hampden, I, for one, would be out there twice a week visiting your little freak show and spending my downtown bucks freely. They have a kick-ass queso skillet.
Really, though, I'm much too busy waiting for the "shock troops of gentrification" to redo the "arts district" to care about what happens in Hampden. I never did get the whole beehive-pointy-eyeglass thing anyway.
Gotta go, there's a junkie at my door. Did I mention we're buying a whole hotel?