Sunday, February 24, 2013

Downtown almost dead; Suburbia dull

At first I wanted to title this post "Downtown dead; Suburbia deadly dull." It had a good sound but it wouldn't have been true.

The downtown in London, Ontario, is sad but there are glimmers are good stuff to be found in the aging core: some fine restaurants, the central library design is brilliant and the arena/entertainment centre is one of the best in North America in a city the size of London.

And suburbia is often neat, clean, safe and handy. Saying suburbia is dull parrots an all-too-common description but it isn't really true. This little commercial strip sits beside my bank. I can get a ring re-sized, have my eyes checked, go for physio treatments, attend a Weight Watchers meeting or do a lot of other important stuff all in this one little shopping centre. To call this little commercial centre dull is somewhat true but it is hardly a full and accurate description.

As I have said before, what puzzles me is that we build stores without using the space above. We sprawl out and fail to expand up. A hundred years ago, stores like these would have had apartments above them. When I was a boy I worked at the neighbourhood drugstore and the one counter lady lived in an apartment above some stores. It was a nice little place full of lovely wood trim and real wood doors. It was small but it had style and class and it was affordable.

That lady took the bus to and from work. Her apartment, located on a main commercial street, encouraged taking the bus or even just walking.

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