There is a project proposed for a decommissioned Wonder Bread bakery building a block from our house and a few blocks from the gallery. The plans are a bit pie-in-the-sky, but what a pie it is! (Actually, even though it was a bread bakery, pie is still kind of appropriate.) Anyway – the plan is to divide the very large space into a mixed-use venue. Artists’ studios, rehearsal space and a recording studio, office space – maybe housing not-for-profit arts organizations or architects – retail space selling goods from the artists and more, performing space and a restaurant. Pretty incredible and possible in that so many people are being engaged in the effort, from monetary donations, to the offer of building supplies, to the offer of a hammer and the arm to swing it. If this project flies it will be because of sweat equity. However – this is an impossible project. The space is too big, the cost too high, the future too uncertain, the neighbors too touchy, the parking too scarce, the noise level too high, too many heads of projects, too few heads of projects, too little understanding of the project, too much fear of being involved. What if it fails? What if it takes us all down with it?
What if it succeeds? What if it benefits us all? What if it becomes a destination and people walk through the neighborhood to reach it? What if people go out of their way to see this impossible thing?
This IS an impossible project. But I have seen impossible projects happen all the time – most noteworthy are the arches and the cap over 670. Impossible. Both of them. Can’t put buildings on a bridge! Can’t get rights to the airspace! If the bridge is too wide, then it is a tunnel and it will need ventilation. Too expensive. Never been done. Can’t do it. Arches? Are you crazy? Who will pay for them, maintain them, own them? Taxpayer boondoggle. And they don’t work! Too expensive to fix. OK, we will fix, but you get an on/off switch and only white. Anything else is impossible!
And yet there they are – arches, lit at night in all the colors of the rainbow. A cap over a freeway so successful that it is now a template for other bridges in the city with the future hope of rebuilding and reconnecting neighborhoods fragmented in the name of progress.
The Short North itself was an impossible thing. Rundown buildings, scary and dirty. Tear it all down and start over! That is the usual and safe thing to do. It was done just recently in the University area. Level it, rebuild it, control it. However, most of the Short North dodged the wrecking balls. We had enough bones left to renovate. And then the work started on filling in the empty spaces. This is an ongoing project and we look to the future for completion, not in months, or years, but decades. This kind of change is not quick or certain, but it will be lasting. The potential is great. We look at the North Short North. That is the future. That is the exciting part. Imagining what could be. Sharing that vision. Working towards making it happen – in small ways and in big ways.
I am not a developer. I don’t have the big bucks that can move mountains or take a vacant lot and make it live again. But I have a vision. I have hope for the future. I can see big things for those willing to take chances, get their hands dirty and pick up a hammer.