All Dressed Up With No Bear To Go

Analysis can’t help but reflect on the closing of the Lil Bear in Downtown Newark. Yikes! This kind of reflective Analysis is a sign of aging. Didn’t anyone see it coming or was it as much a surprise as the passage of years on the critical writing of this blog? Does short term problem solving totally pre-empt long term thinking in the demands of today’s new capitalism? When this blog began the court house square in Newark was a counterclockwise one way, there were residential properties between Locust and the freeway, Canal Market was a parking lot and the Children’s Home was still standing on East Main Street. OK so The Advocate did an end of year countdown of “improvements” to Newark (a good bit of it new restaurants and businesses opening where others had previously been). But prior to the recent accomplishments, at the start of this blog, there were information news releases promoted by Grow Licking County, Downtown Business Association, Newark Development Partners, etc. And “consumer’s choice” sessions held at the hotel (same building, different name), library, etc. where residents could view various plans for projects and “pick” the development they preferred (not that it made any difference, but it was projected to feel like it did). As essayed in those early postings, the emphasis on the part of the planners and developers was to get people downtown. And the best way (according to the developers) was to make it easier for automobiles to do that (the idea of self-driving cars was still a ways off. Self-shopping cars to come?). A deaf ear or blind eye was turned to any conversation or serious consideration of any other form of mobility and access – pedestrian, bicycle, wheel chair, etc. The “choices” for decisions re: the square, one way street changes, downtown entrance/egress, were primarily cosmetic. It was already decided to tear down the Children’s Home, save the old jail in its stead, fulfill a philanthropist’s dream for the adjacent Canal Market, etc. etc. etc. All this was promised to bring the young urban hipsters into the downtown (again?), with tax credits and abatements renovating long vacant (and rotting) second and third floor building spaces so they’d have a place to rent. The new Canal Market District Farmers Market would make Newark a destination shopping attraction. Well, that market doesn’t open for at least another 6 months. What destination shopping attraction will the young urban hipsters (as well as ensconced area residents) utilize in the meantime when it comes to getting groceries and household necessities?  The food pantry outlets are already strained. Analysis would surmise that those with private transportation, cars (the developer’s preferred means of transportation), will use the new planned thoroughfares to access marginal shopping destinations for their everyday necessities. The attraction of downtown living was touted as ease of walking to jobs, not needing a car, etc. True, Analysis was amongst those who criticized much of the urban planning involved – the discipline and punish icon of the old pokey over the care and nurture history of the Children’s Home, the lack of pedestrian priority, the lack of public transportation to accompany the development, etc. Others, at the time, critiqued the process involved as well as the plan with the possibilities of failure. Unfortunately, no one bothered to imagine success. What if the new urban plan succeeded? The vast planned capital improvement project that is downtown Newark today implicated the end of the Lil Bear. Success is articulated through the fruition of the downtown’s capital improvement planning. Unfortunately for the Lil Bear, the onus was on “capital improvement”. Would the tax credits, abatements, and incentives that the McClain’s, Wallace’s, Layman’s and Argyle’s received have made any difference to the inevitable extinction of the Lil Bear (and others that likewise went belly up and departed)? Not. That would have required planning around human activities and processes, something that capital investment, by definition, ignores. What does success look like? What is it to live in this planned success projected for an actual human social community? Will all this capital invested in the downtown leave Newark all dressed up with nowhere to go?

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