My support of the MGM casino project came from a number of directions. The first was the apparent inevitability of casino expansion in the region; whatever the downsides of “gaming”, leveraging its positives to the maximum is the order of the day if it’s coming no matter what. The second was the design of the MGM project; leave the casino out of it and praise for the project’s design and scope would be the talk of the urbanist community regarding mid sized American cities. Thirdly there is the Magic Feather Effect; the city has so much going for it, but the positive cannot break through the previously held “common sense” belief that everything in Springfield sucks…and a billion dollars of glitz could be just the thing to break that spell. Lastly there’s the concept of the Hail Mary; I’m 51 years old and my hometown has been doing pretty much nothing but losing since before I was born, as far as my opportunity to fully experience a turnaround, the clock is ticking, time to go for the big play!
Most people would view my political beliefs as closer to anarcho-syndicalism than police state fascism, but I was heartened by the announcement this week of a plan to create, in essence, a high security corridor along Main Street from Union Street to Union Station; essentially making the city’s two newest, high developments bookends of a “Springfield Green Zone”. While it is inevitable that, to the north, the Lyman Street “backdoor” of the Union Station will become the de facto main entrance for pedestrians, and, to the south, some of the best fine grained pedestrian texture extends at the very least to Central Street if not to Locust Street, the plan could actually be read as comprehending these facts by encompassing an area including all of the above.
Jeff Speck would be happy with this plan. It narrows the focus. If this plan can become successful at creating a corridor of security through which people will feel safe in passing than more and more people will walk from this place to that and from one place to another. If that were to happen then the sensation of security that comes with not being isolated and alone will make the “cops in a box” unnecessary.
Traveling through a much more vibrant and wealthy community this weekend, but one whose architecture and urbanism were more or less on a par with a small neighborhood center in a city like Springfield, it was clear that people were there, shops were open, stores were full, and people were walking everywhere because other people were already there. My wife and I were able to find one building, one, where there was a hint of refinement in the design and there was a smidgen of “second story-ness”. I don’t remember seeing a cop. I don’t think anyone missed them. I think everyone felt secure in being monitored in their behavior by their co-citizens.
And there it is. The world of the panopticon supplanted by an urban Rousseauian vision where people only devour one another with their eyes.