NEWS

Marc Munroe Dion: It’s time to hurry up and do nothing with downtown

Marc Munroe Dion

Walking through downtown Fall River the other day (I really do that), I looked around and wondered when the revitalization starts.

I’ve been walking around downtown Fall River for about 15 years now, and it hasn’t started yet.

There are a couple more restaurants downtown than there were a few years ago (brave entrepreneurs), and the Portuguese cultural organizations are thriving, but there are fewer stores than there were even a few years ago.

I haven’t seen the streets blocked off on the weekends, and I haven’t seen a single trolley car, like Mayuh Correia promised.

And, hey, maybe I’m being unfair. It hasn’t been very long since Mayuh Correia took office, and blocking off the streets to create a "pedestrian mall" would have been stupid this summer, being as the imagined "restaurant row" isn’t there yet.

Besides, if you have your wedding reception at one of the Portuguese cultural halls downtown and the street in front is blocked off, where does the limo let you off? Out back by the Dumpster? And what if you come downtown on the weekend to pick up Grandma at the Academy Building -- maybe take her shopping? If the street’s blocked off, where are you supposed to park while she gets into the car? Grandma may not feel like meeting you a couple blocks away.

Grandma herself may like downtown much less after the new courthouse goes up and she gets to meet criminals from all over the county, instead of just the local criminals.

Here’s something else that bothers me when I’m strolling downtown: The city created 10 liquor licenses but is getting rid of 15 cops. More bars. Less cops. Questionable math.

Of course, more bars/fewer cops might really draw people to Fall River if people think that fewer cops means they’re less likely to get arrested for drunken driving after leaving one of the 10 new bars.

What to do?

Here’s what I figure.

You know how you can go to Colonial Williamsburg or Plimoth Plantation and see "authentic historical" towns, just like they were centuries ago?

Let’s do that in downtown Fall River.

Let’s leave everything downtown EXACTLY the way it is right now, and I mean today, July 21, 2008.

If we never change anything downtown from now on, in the year 2108, we’ll have a perfectly preserved, authentic 2008 downtown.

The important thing is that we start doing nothing right now. No procrastinating. We can’t just say we’re not going to do anything, we have to mean what we say.

Let’s appoint a special blue-ribbon "Downtown Status Quo Committee" to make sure that nothing happens. Load that committee up with people who have served on previous downtown revitalization committees. They’ll know what to do.

Come up with a slogan. Maybe "Downtown Fall River: Like a Rock," or "Downtown: Just The Way Ya Left it."

In the meantime, start planning the grand unveiling in 2108. The politicians of today will go crazy trying to figure out how they can grab credit for something that won’t happen until AFTER they’re dead.

"Look, a dollar store!" the tourists will say when they see our downtown 100 years from now. "How cuuuute!"

Everything we hate about today’s downtown will be an asset if preserved, intact, until 2108.

The old police station on Bedford Street?

"Children," the guide would say, "this is what happened to abandoned municipal buildings back in the day when most city councilors couldn’t tell the difference between a real estate developer and a real estate speculator."

The best thing about not doing anything is we already have lots of practice.

And think of the money we’ll save on "downtown revitalization studies."

Hey, wait a minute!

Isn’t this column a "downtown revitalization study?"

Somebody owes me $80,000.

Contact Marc Munroe Dion at mdion@heraldnews.com.