Sunday, November 13, 2011

Captain Density and the Mixed Uses 3: Turning the Tables

Previous episodes: 1, 2

"I hate all this formal crap" Jimmy Joe thought to himself as he got off at the bus stop closest to the high school auditorium. He was dressed in a suit and tie, but refused to wear anything other than his work boots to round out his outfit. "I've got to stay just a little bit real after all right?" he thought to himself.

He followed a line of people walking towards the auditorium, noting what he thought just might be concern on their faces as the light from the open auditorium doors sliced through the darkness and briefly fell on them.

The room was packed. On one side, taking up half the seats were people wearing identical blue shirts that said "MP".

"Could I have your attention please ladies and gentlemen? I'm councilman Chip Farnsworth III and I'd like to thank you all for coming out tonight. As you know, we're here to discuss the new downtown apartment building with storefronts. First we'll hear from the leader of the citizens group that is raising concerns, then from a representative of the developer, then we'll open it up for public comment. Max, would you come on up to the mic please?"

The MP shirts filled the auditorium with enthusiastic applause as one of their number rose up and strode confidently, almost jogging, up to the podium.

"Thank you, thank you, you're too kind! I am Maximilian Park, but among friends It's Maximus Parkingus. I'm the chairman of Citizens for Maximum Parking, one of the oldest and most distinguished advocacy groups in our fair city."

"It's going to be a long night" Jimmy Joe muttered to himself.

"And that's what I've come to speak to you about tonight. This monstrosity of an apartment building that is being proposed, if we allow it at all, should be built with many more parking spaces!" Again, thunderous applause erupted from the room. "It's bad enough that this project will bring in, certain, shall we say, criminal elements and undesirables, with its so-called 'affordable housing' and will be a visual blight with its massive looming shadows. But its impacts on traffic and downtown parking are simply too horrible to contemplate . . ."

Five long minutes later, Councilmember Farnsworth called Jimmy Joe to give his rebuttal.

"Here goes nothing" Jimmy Joe said to himself.

"Good evening folks. I'm Jimmy Joe Brown, one of the construction workers on the project. This project's going to be good for our city. But to understand why, let me ask y'all a few questions. How many of you know someone who is out of work right now?"

The audience suddenly got a little quieter and some had the telltale signs of suppressed emotion on their faces.

"This project has been creating lots of well-paying jobs, but that's not enough by itself. How many of you have ever had trouble paying your rent? It's high isn't it? What this project does is to open up some chances for people to have an apartment that they can afford. To top it all off, these folks won't have to drive as much because they'll be living right in downtown, with lots of jobs and stores to walk to, and the best transit service in the city. That saves them money, and cuts down on pollution. We're proposing this project with less parking than is typical because in that location it's not as needed, and it lowers our costs so we can pass those savings on to our tenants . . ."

The meeting went long into the night and there were passionate points of view on all sides. Afterwards as people were heading out a young man came up to Jimmy Joe.

"Hi there, Jimmy Joe isn't it? I was hoping to have a word with you. The name's Dan Grayson. I'm a real estate agent. That's not what you'll see on my card though, all my clients call me 'Retail Boy'".

"Well, if my bus is going where you are I'll chat it up with ya. Let's go."

To be continued . . .

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