Walking the sweet but not terribly bright visiting boxer bitch home for grilled cheese (ours) at lunch, we took Fourth Street for a change, a route that led us past the cold-war era garage serving the largely empty Tower Place. The northern sidewalk takes walkers through one of the creepiest passages in the city, the scene of a fatal domestic incident, the hideous and chilling cave under the garage ramps. It’s part of our Library neighborhood, and it’s blight.
A bit of history. The garage was one of the earliest efforts at urban development, a coup pulled off by development commissar Peter Kory. The city’s merchants thought a huge garage would restore parity in the commercial standoff between the malls and downtown. Like most urban development of the time, what was then Pogue’s garage wiped out a lot of small buildings and retail fronts, effectively smothering the life on what had been the city’s best retail street. The whole thing was considered a triumph, since Closson’s, an ancient leather-couch-and-Bengal-print firm catering to rich but timid homeowners, moved into the storefront at the eastern end of the garage. (Yes, the very storefront that recent Tower Place owners teased us with the prospect of moving in Trader Joe’s)
The shopping of the mid-century has vanished. That shopping, will not be back. Some shopping will grow up to serve the neighborhood, but Pogue’s and Closson’s, we promise you, will never come back. The expensive garage gets nowhere near the use for which it was designed. It is hulking and ugly, a scar on the city. What we need is for Mr. Obama to come to town, climb a temporary dais at Fourth and Elm, put his arm around the mayor, gesture expansively to the east, and say clearly to the newsreel cameras, “Mr. Mallory, tear down this garage!” That’s what we need. This year.