Sure, in combination and total the visual impact is noticeable, particularly for those familiar with the old face of Broad Street in particular. Amazing what a bit of removal of facial hair and a new hairdo can do for a grand old dame.
Not only that but, pretty much throughout the gloom, doom and belt-tightening accompanying the continuing economic correction, it has been the downtown core that has provided the constant beacon of hope: more jobs every year, although in small numbers; more storefronts filling up than going empty, although far too many vacancies remain; more community events, many of the free variety, being held there.
However, true credit should be put where it belongs: a new energy and enthusiasm that, far more than investment or community dollars, is responsible for the totality of the makeover.
It thus should be particularly cheering to hear the ideas/plans/hopes of the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and the Rome Business Improvement District board (BID) for the coming year. If even half of the current dreams and schemes by this team of combined cheerleaders/doers are accomplished, the old girl will not only look even better but also become Rome’s unchallenged belle of the ball.
SURE, THERE are some big things already in progress — primarily the addition to the Hawthorn hotel operation and planned new Marriott Courtyard — to add to all sorts of current/ongoing major improvements such as the new parking areas, sidewalk repairs and riverside overhaul. However, just as in the immediate past, the biggest potential impact is from all the little things of low-to-no public budgetary impact proposed.
Frankly, a lot of these are “the usual suspects” — items talked about in the past with the words sort of vanishing into thin air. However, the obvious go-get-’em energy of the local downtown interests already displayed make much of the entire list of comparative little things seem just as possible as all the similar little things already accomplished and now so visible.
Particularly encouraging is the hint that as many as three new retailers are eying Broad locations. Assuming these will not be selling beer or baubles or good eatin’ or tattoos, such would be exactly what the downtown needs to pull in traffic not already largely captive in all its nearby office/government buildings. And if additional loft residential housing is also, as declared, an objective then finding milk, bread and an aspirin without having to hop into a car would be essential. Just a pair of socks, too.
The effort to revive the earlier idea of having brass plaques placed on all buildings describing what they used to be — and perhaps what historic event occurred there — should be more than cheered. It needs to be accomplished. Already void of its former historic statuary, Broad continues to offer an impression largely leaving visitors to wonder: “Sure looks old; wonder if anything ever happened here?”
SIMILARLY the suggestion that empty storefront windows be filled with photographs of scenes of local bygone days would both reinforce history lessons and conceal a lot of visual sins. This newspaper does not a claim a monopoly, as it currently appears to have, in making olden-day photos visible.
Similarly, having uniform yet visible “for rent/lease” signage would be entirely appropriate as would any effort led by downtown forces to cover up, paint over or remove relic signage announcing the presence of a business that hasn’t been there for years and years.
How those old photos would mesh with the notion of adding “street art,” such as the “Dancing Flower” planned on the corner of Broad and Fifth Avenue, is aesthetically puzzling. There’s nothing wrong with giving the downtown area a bit of visual “pop,” as all those many suggested window history lessons would do. However, if pop art is what is desirable on Broad itself, where the sales pitch has long been being in a turn-of-the-century location (the 19th becoming the 20th century, not the 21st) then why not just give Greater Rome’s small army of graffiti artists a green light to have at it?
What is modern art supposed to say to Broad visitors? This is a playground? Andy Warhol and Alexander Calder were secretly born here but nobody knows it?
THE METAL sculpture, a much-deserved tribute to the late Mickie Dobbs who for so long headed efforts to Keep Rome-Floyd Beautiful, could indeed be the first of a delightful open-air “art gallery” if such were promoted where it belongs ... on the back side of Broad Street facing the Oostanaula River where “modern Rome” is what meets the eye almost everywhere: The Town Green and fountain, The Forum, the courthouse, the parking deck, soon the new hotel, the facelifted Barron Stadium, the newish bank building, the cancer center and, off in the near distance, Floyd Medical Center.
There is, after all, a line between protecting a community treasure and “drumming up more business.” A fine line, to be sure, but a line nonetheless.
At the same time, it must be both recognized, cheered and encouraged that what has been accomplished — and what will be — are due to the energies and enthusiasms of those who love the area, work and play there, derive profits from it and, as consumers, get to enjoy the more and more it has to offer.
In a sense, the oldest portion of Rome has found the Fountain of Youth. It is now, as it always has been, in the people who love it.