Sunday, September 21, 2003

Let's talk: Readers respond on the week's hot topic

What could the Main Street Entertainment District offer that would make it the "must" place for you to bring out-of-town guests who come to visit you in Greater Cincinnati? Last week, we posed that question to readers as part of the Forum story on John Elkington, credited with reviving Beale Street in Memphis.

Beale Street linked to Elvis, Graceland

Tourists come to Memphis to see Elvis Presley's Graceland and Sun Records. Beale Street benefits from this. Elvis wouldn't have been Elvis without Beale Street; that's where the music was born. A shuttle bus runs hourly from Graceland to the Elvis Presley Restaurant on Beale Street.

When John Elkington revitalized the area, he tapped into a ready-made audience of tourists looking for something to do after touring Graceland. Cincinnati lacks this synergy. Our own King Records holds an important place in pop music history, but it's been too long since the end of the company and it's fading from public consciousness.

The public does not realize that there's a connection between Cincinnati, King Records and its most famous artist, James Brown. There would have to be a lot of time, expense and effort to create that recognition and to develop an area with Beale Street's pull.

Bruce Chrislip, Anderson Township


Main Street rehab needs city's support

In the Main Street entertainment district, many of the establishments are already in place. It has the trendy bars, outdoor patios and places such as Kaldi's to stop in for a latte or dessert after dinner. Rehabbed housing is vital, and the city needs to make it easy for developers to continue doing these projects.

One obvious component that is missing is a full-service grocery store that residents can walk to with ease. For visitors, a movie theater is needed to attract couples and those who want a night out for a movie and dinner.

While hiring an outside consultant to bring in chains can't hurt, the city needs to support its current residents and business owners who put their own money and sweat in opening small businesses and rehabbing buildings.

Glenn Schnell, Green Township (Formerly Prospect Hill)


Common sense for Main St.: Yes!

I was particularly impressed with the comments of the letter writer in his letter "Main Street's OK; basic service needed" (Sept. 9).

Essentially, the letter writer suggested that the city of Cincinnati should get back to a time-tested position of providing excellent basic services and stop impeding the efforts of creative entrepreneurs in bringing a healthy lifestyle back to the city.

His comments should be required reading for all current and future members of Cincinnati's City Council. I hope the letter writer will continue to share his common sense views with this newspaper.

Tom Dix, Moscow


Don't copy Memphis; its downtown is dead

My family was transferred here from Memphis 10 years ago. We lived in Memphis 17 years. We saw Beale Street rejuvenated. Yes, 10 years ago it was supposed to be "a catalyst of downtown Memphis' renovation" to quote the Enquirer, that catalyst is defunct.

Nobody goes to downtown Memphis. They roll up the streets of downtown Memphis every evening when the government-building employees escape it after work and go home to the suburbs.

Beale Street is one small, downtown street; it's a weird oasis in a dangerous, deserted desert. And its businesses are struggling and failing. No lasting additional downtown growth was generated by all its hype.

During the 17 years we lived there, Memphis' taxpayers bought and paid for so many downtown revitalization kits that it is ridiculous. They made a walking mall out of the major downtown thoroughfare. They built Mud Island. They have given countless tax advantages to attract business. They put in specially designed buses just for downtown. They tried desperately, expensively, to get a professional sports team. Countless projects were bought, implemented with hopes, and flopped. Learn from Memphis: What they tried doesn't work. Downtown Memphis is a dead failure. Don't kill Cincinnati!

Dorothy Joshi, Sycamore Township


OTR's German heritage can lead its revival

The Main Street entertainment district, and Over-the-Rhine as a whole, needs to capitalize on its unique cultural and historical heritage. I believe this is the single most important factor in making it a "must see" attraction for visitors to Cincinnati. Over-the-Rhine has a very rich German heritage - 125 years ago it was the bustling center of German life - and this needs to be played up.

Bring back some of the beer gardens, the bakeries, the theaters, the authentic German food, and Cincinnati-brewed beer, and the entertainment district will be well on its way. Throw in some cobblestones, streetcars (for better accessibility), chili parlors, local musicians, and references to Cincinnati sports, and the district will thrive. Main Street (and OTR) have such great potential, perhaps greater than any area in the country, and I applaud the city's efforts to hire John Elkington in an attempt to revitalize the district. But, whatever happens in the revitalization process, don't neglect to celebrate and take advantage of the area's unique cultural heritage.

Danny Klinger, Pleasant Ridge


Downtown should also draw couples, families

Please keep in mind during your planning that downtown belongs to all Cincinnatians, not just single young professionals with money to burn and a desire to party, and be seen in the "In Crowd." There is a huge market of married couples in their 30s and 40s who are raising families. They would love a night on the town if there were reasonably priced dining, entertainment, and parking. They need places that are casual enough that they don't have to wear designer clothing to fit in.

Some suggestions include: Several smaller theaters for live performances. People in Greater Cincinnati love going to dramatic plays, comedy clubs, and musicals, but can't always afford the Aronoff. Some reasonably priced restaurants with a bar area that is large enough for people to mingle, that cater to serving large groups of singles would be nice. These restaurants need only soft background music that won't interfere with conversation. The blues, rock oldies, country, swing, pop and romantic easy-listening performed in various clubs with a dance floor would attract people of all ages. During the day, entire families will come downtown to eat and shop if they feel safe, and there is something to attract them. Street performers (clowns, jugglers, magicians, musicians, cartoon characters, ice cream vendors, etc.) and theaters that perform plays suited for young audiences are good possibilities.

Dorothy L. Weigel, Madeira


Don't 'over-plan' Main Street corridor

Have Democrats Charlie Luken and John Cranley lost their minds? The last thing Cincinnati needs is an overly planned, spontaneity-lacking "entertainment distinct." The Main Street corridor has its roots in the exact opposite direction. Main Street was born from a blues note floating in the hot summer air; the people that went there were looking for something different. If Cincinnati goes with Performa, it will end five years from now in disappointment, another spontaneous "hot spot" will appear (Lower Clifton, Northside...), and downtown will be again on the outside looking in.

Here is a thought: Create ways to empower people to see their dreams and visions through. Individual vision is what's lacking downtown. What we don't need is more corporatizing.

Anthony Smith, Madisonville


For better vision, look to Baltimore, Boston

I lived in Baltimore when Rouse Corp. developed the inner harbor. The mayor started a homestead program that allowed old, run down homes in the area to be bought at very low prices as long as the new owners fixed them up and lived in them for at least two years. The result was that they never left and the program spread far and wide.

Look at the results. Rouse also developed the Boston revitalization. It seems that no one is looking at what has worked well for cities on the water and tried to bring it here.

There is a lack of vision and commitment here that allows Kentucky to revitalize while Cincinnati settles for drab parks and a few music or food events. Wake up, Cincinnati.

Warren Shapiro, Deerfield Township


Let people drink out on Main Street

What would make Main Street a must-visit destination? Open-air drinking. Look how many people swarm to Oktoberfest. Look how crowded the patios of local bars are when the weather is nice. People like to drink outside. Thursday thorough Sunday (weather permitting), we need to close off the Main Street district to cars. Make sure people can only drink from plastic containers within the designated area. This would add a new "fun" dynamic the area needs. This would not cost $100,000.

Dave Ebbesmeyer, Norwood

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