Friday, December 28

How would you like your downtown?

The Missoulian reported today that the Missoula Downtown Association, along with some private support, will be launching a 9-month planning process to envision the future of downtown. A national organization will be chosen in January to run the process, which will include plenty of opportunity for public input. And this master plan should have some bearing on the current city-wide zoning rewrite.

Missoula's downtown has remained vibrant, but I know that it has not always been on such solid economic footing. Somehow it has been able to weather the storms throughout the years, while many downtowns of comparable size have been toppled by them. It could only have been an intentional effort by a large number of concerned citizens - hardly just the natural flow of the market. It's worth spending a few more dollars than you would at Walmart to help Missoula preserve it's unique quality.

And now apparently there will be a way to be even more involved in shaping its character. That's a good thing.


Zed said...

Daniel, You mention that private dollars might be going into this planning effort. This would worry me. I'm not sure that partially privatizing planning serves well the public good, and I am concerned how much influence or preference the private donors will receive in the whole process.

This raises the big issue of who sets the agenda for this planning effort. What things will be mandatory for consideration, and what things will be hastily discarded from consideration? For instance, what if members of the public suggested another roundabout downtown -- would that be taken seriously? What about if someone suggested allowing more buildings with 10 or more floors?

Of course, this will be very intriguing to see how the Broadway/St. Pats/Fox Theatre site all factor into it.

Daniel Nairn said...

Hey Zed. Your comment has really made me think. I think you're right that the private financing behind this project is worth some scrutiny. Supposedly $425,000 has been given to this, and it's hard to believe that all of the donors are acting out of pure altruism, seeking the common good. I'd at least like more disclosure about where the money is coming from.

It's also true that "public involvement" does not always mean that the public is truly welcomed into the decision-making process. Sometimes it can be just a token gesture.

I should perhaps be a little more cautious with these things. But, I suppose any plan is better than no plan, because a bad plan would at least give an opportunity for public protest and reaction. Letting things develop haphazardly always seems to subvert the public will.

I'd like to know more about this whole project.

By the way, I just finished listening to you on the radio! Good choice with Animal, Vegetable, miracle. I've been wanting to read this for a while now.