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While I'm not a fan of CityScape from an architectural point of view, I think it's inaccurate to characterize the development as dominated by chains based elsewhere. Your post names the major chains opening there, but it leaves out the chains that have withdrawn as the economy has soured. The original CityScape plans included places like P.F. Chang's and Border's. They've long since bowed out and have been replaced by more interesting and locally-owned places like Vitamin T, Silk, and LGO Public House. While their presence does not erase the blank walls that make CityScape so lacking in street presence, CityScape has looked to local businesses to fill in gaps left by skittish chains, and that's a positive development. As for the Sheraton and PCC, I think both are a net positive. The Sheraton is a drab beige tower, but at least it has some street presence, with patio dining wrapping around the corner of 3rd Street and Van Buren. It's hardly perfect, but it does a far better job of addressing the street than older hotels like the Hyatt, which has huge blank walls on three sides. The PCC creates some long blank blocks, but I don't know of a convention center anywhere that has a different outcome. Convention centers are always a mixed blessing for Downtowns, but at least I find the PCC more attractive than many I've visited in other cities. Where I agree most vocally with you, Sean, and others is in rejecting the decision by the City, with the misguided backing of organizations that favor the "big project" approach to Downtown, to demolish the Sahara and replace it with surface parking. That's a mistake that's been repeated far too often here. It's not so much that any one parking lot is devastating, but more that we die the death of a thousand cuts when keep allowing news ones to pop up where buildings previously stood. The net effect is a Downtown in which chasms of emptiness separate activity clusters and discourage exploration and spontaneous discovery.
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Oct 28, 2010