Please permit me to divert attention away from the popgun political warfare that dominates these columns to address a fear I have for our downtown.
Downtown Jefferson City seems to be turning into a place dominated by barristers, bars and baristas. And holes.
The destruction of the building at the corner of High and Madison streets is regretful because it leaves another hole in our downtown facade. The development of these holes has been underway since the Kress Department Store fire of 1972 left a hole that is now a nice walkway from the 200 block of High Street to a parking lot on the alley behind. The hole created by the Bartlett's Store fire of 1974 remains although it is decorated by a nice painting. Now we have a large and unavoidably visible hole at our most prominent downtown intersection.
These holes, coupled with vacant stores, create an unhealthy image not just of our downtown but of our city. Breathing new life into our downtown area remains no easier now than it has been for many years. Does the answer lie in creating a climate that draws people who want live above stores they would patronize beneath them? Does it lie in creating businesses in those stores that would support not just those who live above them but people who live in the central part of our city — a satellite of one of our large grocery stores that operate on the edges of our city, for example?
We should cherish and protect these old buildings that were the commercial heart of our city for a century or more, understand the challenges of keeping them intact, and see their possibilities to become a new kind of commercial center for our city and the people who live or would live — and work — in its central area.
Perhaps we can find, preferably from within us, someone who could lead visionary entrepreneurs capable of restoring the historic appearance of downtown, patch its holes, and lead it into a new future.
Downtown, Capitol Avenue, the prison. They're tied together geographically and historically. But they're also tied together by their potential futures. I hope all three have them.