Wednesday, November 7, 2007

From Fast Food to Fine Clothing,

Everyday i bike downtown, primarily because i live downtown, in a nicer neighborhood called Laurel Park, where the exterior paint on all of the houses are a lively color, yards for the most part are either eccentrically or meticulously kept and young professionals, struggling students, and the middle aged artist live side by side. About a year ago i met two middle aged men in Gainesville, who after talking to them for several minutes we realized that we had both lived on the same street downtown, 30 years apart. These men regaled me with stories about acid parties, communal living and free love for several minutes until i felt the need to interrupt and explain to them exactly what had become of the location of their glory days, to their horror.

Things change.

Of the kids who grew up in Sarasota or Bradenton who could forget going to shows at Light Painters Gallery, The Monterey Deli, The Atari Info Shop or the Brownstone? Hell, i saw my first show ever at the Info Shop but with "growing up"(which i don't think I'll ever really do) you have to face cetian facts that everything you knew has changed, or will change. Robert Frost said once "In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on." and it's true.

The point of all of this is that i remember being in high school and going to local shows downtown and eating at a Burger King just up the street from The Monterey Deli, which has now long since closed, I'll never eat another burger there, ever because it's now a Brooks Brothers clothing store. Which I'm slightly okay with because i happened to be wearing a pair of Brooks Brothers shorts while riding my bike as i happened to pass this new retail outlet.

But alas, a part of me cringes. How much more money can we, the people of Sarasota dump into the downtown economy after the housing bubble has burst? Is this not regression? Granted i understand that location is the number 1 factor in real estate, and they're not making any more downtown property, which will probably mean that in the next few years the house that i live in will either jump in value or fall, but regardless my rent will stay the same, or even go up, and i will probably be the subject of gentrification, again.

As a consumer(yes i am one, and you are too whether you like it or not) i understand the need for clothing, hardware, grocery and brick-a-brack stores in the downtown area, especially since our economy here thrives off of tourism and seasonal residents but how far do we take it? I also understand that a store front will do no one any good sitting dormant, someone has to make a profit from owning the land but i feel that it could be put to better use, but don't ask me how I'm not necessarily the problem solver I just have a knack for finding the problems in a situation.
If one were to drive just one mile north of this new Brooks Brothers they would find people who are relatively impoverished, people who couldn't afford to shop in the store which of course is natural, there are businesses everywhere around the world and everywhere in the world there are people who are too poor to shop in some of these stores. And of course that's not to say that you won't find me in this new Brooks Brothers, browsing. It's just that i can't find the rational for it. Does consumer demand really warrant a new high end clothier? As far as i know there are no community outreach programs located in the downtown area, save the Salvation Army which really only serves the majority of the homeless in the area, who by all accounts are taken well care of.

And I know there are Goodwill centers for job education around town, but i guess I'm just looking for a greater diversity in my downtown, where i live. It's becoming very apparent that downtown Sarasota is rapidly becoming very exclusive catering to a select few, omitting the vast majority of the population in the area based on a ridiculous class structure that rivals any other wealthy community in America. I do live in a smaller town in White America, but it just seems that our downtown community is very different from any other downtown I have ever seen. There is a complete lack of diversity. They're(yes them, you know who i mean) making it harder and harder to live in a very beautiful city that has a lot to offer it's residents year round. I suppose that the point is that i grew up here, and i like it, i just don't like what it's becoming, but can't we all say the same thing about anything we're fond of but changes with time, as everything does.

At the end of the day all i know is that it does go on.

Question is, do we go with it, or kick against the goad and try and change it?