Thursday, February 15, 2007

Shining City on the Hill

For some time now, I've been meaning to comment on this post over at Mike Madison's place regarding this little blurb in the P-G last Sunday. Unfortunately, that little thing I do between blogging (read: "everything") got in the way of actually being able to sit down and cobble together a coherent post.

I did manage to cobble together several incoherent posts, which I left over at Little Green Footballs and Free Republic, figuring no one would know the difference anyway.

Anyway, in my next life I would certainly love to add some physical structure or concrete development to the City of Pittsburgh, but in this life I have resigned myself to pushing little bits of paper across my desk and adding up numbers that never return the result I want. In short, I'm no architect nor do I claim to be one. I do, however, have some comments on Mr. Pfaffman's proposed plan:

(1) First, let me say that I like the plan. It is an interesting and innovative use of what would otherwise be a parking lot or a low-rise apartment building.

(2) However, having been to more public hearings than I care to remember, I can safely say that "a plan" means nothing. A plan is barely worth more than the ink and paper its written on. Custer had a plan, for the love of Pete! I've watched very slick people try to convince whole neighborhoods to follow their lead because they have "a plan" only to watch them crash and burn. I don't trust "plans."

(3) Still, a "plan" in this sense is an opening volley on what is sure to be a heated battle between people with more political aspirations than brains. Mr. Pfaffman has already begun to frame the discussion in one direction, so good for him.

(4) Architectural plans, specifically the ones made by architects, in my experience are either too expensive or don't work. This is a rash generalization, of course, but in a city that is burdened by crushing debt, it seems unlikely that they will make the investment in preserving the Arena in this manner if it costs too much.

(5) What's even worse: half-assed plans. On the edge of the City of Pittsburgh, back where no one goes in Fairywood, there is a two-lane highway that runs 6 blocks. Back in the day it was supposed to be a vital link to Route 60 near Crafton. Today, I think you can get to the UPS depot. That is a half-assed plan and it sucks. I'd hate to see the Arena end up like that.

(6) Mr. Pfaffman starts off his short plan with a short quote from Hill playwright August Wilson: "My plays insist that we should not forget or toss away our history." If you know the history of the development of the "Melody Tent" site, you'll appreciate the irony. In fact, I'm sure you can find enough people in the Hill that would be fighting to be the first in line to drive a bulldozer through the Arena.

(7) Which brings up the larger question: who speaks for the Hill? The City? The Penguins? The Councilperson? The Churches? The Community Organizations? The Residents? The Old Residents? The New Residents? There is no doubt in my mind that no matter what the eventual decision is, a large, vocal minority (or even majority) will be unhappy.

(8) And then, of course, who determines what the "Good" for the Hill actually is?

So, that's the opinion of a person that doesn't know a fascia from a soffit from a Fresca. Take it for what it's worth.

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