Well I’m in a little better mood than when I wrote my last post. Nobody told me that there was this period after graduating college in which you become slightly psychotic and despondent. Hey, it’s a major change. Even though I wasn’t getting paid to do all the things I was doing for school it became a huge part of my life. Then it was gone and I had nothing lined up afterwards.
If I was single, young, footloose and fancy-free I could move to any state and have a job tomorrow but my prospects are limited since I live in the wrong part of the country for my degree. There’s jobs here but I might have to wait until someone retires at the IDNR or mysteriously disappears. [cough cough]
Anyway, right now I’m in the process of applying for grad school even though if the new tax plan passes I’ll be screwed. If I get a graduate assistantship position I’ll have to pay taxes on the waived tuition. That means I may have to get student loans to pay taxes on money I never actually get paid. A similar situation always killed my brother at tax time when he was a pastor. The government considered the parsonage he lived in part of his wages but it’s not like you can send in a part of the house to the IRS. They want money but waived tuition and parsonages aren’t spendable money. Yeah, parts of our tax laws don’t make much sense.
Ash & 51 Development
Now onto Decatur stuff. I knew it wouldn’t be long until another rezoning battle would take place over the US 51 & Ash corner after Aldi’s request was shot down. I don’t think I’ve read so many comments from such a wide array of people against anything. It’s practically 99-1 in favor of rejecting the rezoning request, even though it would bring in new businesses and jobs to Decatur.
I have mixed feelings about it. On one hand, Lord knows Decatur needs more tax revenue and jobs and it would be nice to have more dining and shopping choices but on the other hand that intersection is already at full capacity. The character of the neighborhood would forever be altered. There’s no going back to what it once was if the businesses fail or cause traffic nightmares.
The whole situation highlights a major problem with Decatur being able to attract new business. Yes there are many empty lots and empty buildings but most are in areas that aren’t desirable or would cost a boatload of money to get ready for new construction.
Honestly, I think Northgate Mall needs to see a wrecking ball because the days of big retail stores are over. That area just needs to be cleaned out and opened up for new things. I could see the old Kmart building being desirable for a warehouse or light industry but not retail. The lots in front of it could be desirable for smaller storefronts and restaurants however but Pershing Road along that stretch needs upgrades.
I’ve always disliked driving that part of Pershing because it narrows and it seems like there’s tons of fender benders from sudden stops. Something just isn’t right about that stretch of road for smooth traffic flow, especially heading east. I personally avoid that part of Pershing Road if I can. Another problem is that there’s no middle turn lane to get to businesses on the opposite side. I know the secret passage ways to get to KFC when I’m heading east but out-of-towners don’t.
Really until Decatur gets an overpass over I-72 for MLK we’re going to have a hard time finding good spots for major chain restaurants and other retailers. That area can be developed without disrupting neighborhoods or creating dangerous traffic conditions. It would be a highly desirable area for businesses because restaurants like to be visible and accessible to Interstate traffic and away from troubled, blighted areas of the the inner city. I hate to say that but that’s just the way it is. The city needs to focus its attention on getting that overpass funded and built. Forget the bypass for a while. That’s going to take decades to get full funding for. Instead, get that overpass now!
How Would I Vote on Ash & 51?
In the meanwhile, I’m not going to say I’m against development at 51 and Ash until I see the full plans. The Target development turned out to be an asset to the area but then houses didn’t have to be torn down and Walmart traffic wasn’t already there. It’s not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison but if there’s plenty of greenspace and good landscaping to buffer the commercial area from the neighborhood I might be for it. However, I would want changes to our city code requiring upkeep on landscaping.
New commercial properties are required to install a certain amount of trees, shrubs, and other landscaping features depending upon the size of the lot but I’ve noticed that they aren’t required to keep those things. Over time the lots begin to have fewer and fewer trees, shrubs, flowers, etc., and then the lots begin to look just as unappealing as every other commercial lot that puts zero effort into aesthetic appeal for the city. I would only vote in favor of the zoning request if ongoing landscaping maintenance was added into the city code and the Ash & 51 plans fit well into a neighborhood setting.
My heart goes out to the residents though. I grew up on the north side of town and I know how upsetting it is to see things change. A few weeks ago I went to Brettwood for my weekly grocery shopping and I broke down into tears in the parking lot. I looked at the mostly empty lot and the lonely looking buildings and cried. I know it sounds silly but I spent a lot of my childhood in that shopping center. I have so many memories there with my friends and my mom. It’s hard to see something become neglected and unwanted that you have such strong emotional attachment to. I completely get it.