Friday, May 26, 2006

Riding the White Elephant


Anytime the Post Gazette heads off a story with the words "Developer Has Big Plans For...," expect a pile of shit like the one we're being offered here. Cordish, Co., famed developer of rustbelt entertainment centers, now wants to "Live" up Pittsburgh. A proposed North Shore concert venue will feature a Glass Topped concert venue, "...surrounded by restaurants, clubs and shops, with entrances facing in so that patrons would have access to them from the event space." Plans show a space dominated by office space and retail... a veritable "24 hour" downtown just like the one we already have.

Cordish's plan seems like a good fit in this town, where insular developments like Station Square and the Boardwalk alternatively lure lust-blind suburban brats with bad music and busty barmaids, and myopic politicians with the next silver-bullet catalyst for the city's revival. Though the revival never materialized, such realities aren't viewed as failure by Station Square, the Boardwalk, or Cordish for that matter. A few extra million in public subsidy, perhaps a slots license or a parking garage. Bobby O is looking for a "Wow?" Cordish sez: "Though all of our storefronts face onto an inner courtyard, the ass ends of our buildings (ie: dumpsters and brick walls) are gonna light a fire under the North Shore!"

Cordish's development in Baltimore, the Inner Harbor, successfully draws in thousands of revellers from Central Pennsylvania, who prefer Cordish's brand of faux city to a real neighborhood.
Those who prefer a genuine urban experience neatly cut Cordish's plastic downtown out of Saturday's plans, choosing not to drink, to shop or to live nearby. York County hicks "come dahn, drank, and scoot." The net effect is an abandoned downtown. Sadly for the City of Baltimore, the Lombard Street redlight district two blocks away is a veritable melange of sexual horrors: abandoned by polite society to gothic hoardes of she-men riding naked astride wild animals.

For Pittsburgh, the tragedy is much more poignant. Booming East Liberty and bustling Lawrenceville bristle in competition for thousands from a shrinking pool of funds; while their respective projects will generate millions in real tax revenue for the city's coffers; while their efforts will eventually create high-value, stable neighborhood like the South Side or Squirrel Hill; the city will offer millions to make Cordish's glass-topped White Elephant a reality.

If the definition of insanity is the blind repitition of an act with the expectation of different results...

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