Thoughts on Readings March 18

Once again the readings this week were enlightening and informative, besides a few incredibly ignorant statements, (Tyler wrote that day time hours are only convenient to the unemployed, neglecting to realize that people work at night, from home, and are self-employed!), the book provides a really comprehensive overview of historic preservation, restoration, and conservation; and will undoubtedly prove to be a helpful reference in the future.
When we discuss historic preservation with folks without an historical understanding of certain places, it is important to remind them that quality transcends time, and things that are historically important may not be obvious to the casual observer. There seems to be an idea floating around that if something is old it is less useful or perhaps less aesthetically pleasing. Certain architectural styles may not be popular any longer, but that does not mean we should tear down the building for the newest and least expensive piece of architecture. This is especially true in the case of buildings that don’t have a lot of traditional aesthetic value, but are an important aspect of America’s history. Tyler discusses the first McDonalds built in the United States, which is located in Downey, California. Post-War consumerism and car culture can be referenced by old burger places like the early McDonalds, or the by the old Chow Now burger stand that used to be on Broadway and Boise Avenue. The last time I was in Downey the old McDonalds was still standing and in use, however in the mid 2000s, Chow Now was replaced by office buildings. I believe historians have a greater role in helping to preserve these types of buildings, since they may be perceived as lacking historical value.

Another discussion brought up by the author that I feel is relevant to Boise was Tyler’s discussion of downtowns. Tyler asserted that downtowns provide a better community focused center because of the range and types of places. He gives a quick list of what downtowns can do to sustain themselves, but he leaves out one glaring element- transportation and parking. Parking in downtown Boise is difficult and it is a deterrent. During the week it is expensive and limited by 2 hour meters, on the weekend and in the evening, you still have to pay in the garages or try finding a place on the street. Buses do run downtown, but they stop running at 6:00pm, and there is limited service on Saturday. I suggest trying a free parking month and then calculate how many more people come to downtown. Another option is to increase public transportation; the city should look into the costs and benefits of an interurban transit system like the one Boise had in the past. Many businesses in downtown Boise are leaving, and it is a trend that will continue, unless the City and downtown association looks for better ways to address the public’s needs.

This weekend I was in Pasco, Washington for a funeral. We arrived a couple of hours before the service so we deceived to drive around the town. After reading the Tyler book it was an interesting tour. Pasco’s downtown has been completely neglected, right now it provides only shopping venues that are deeply influenced by Hispanic culture. Although it is refreshing to see the spread of Hispanic culture, the downtown is now simply a marketplace for inexpensive goods; gone are the government buildings, cultural museums, and offices. The buildings have also been neglected, and it was an eye-opening experience to see the fate of a once thriving downtown. I asked my family members who live in Pasco where the new downtown hub was, and they informed me that it was what I had assumed- a 5 block strip mall on road 68. But surely a strip mall could not replace downtown, like Tyler stated how buildings function “define downtown as a focus of community life, not simply the physical groupings of buildings,” therefore without a mix of retail, commercial buildings, city offices, and cultural resources, downtown cannot sustain itself. If people truly want to buy more than commodities, goods, and services, and if they are “willing to spend more to purchase experiences;” (283) then downtowns provide the perfect outlet for this kind of unique experience. All strip malls can provide the same experiences as any other town, but each city’s downtown is unique, and perhaps this is something people should reflect on before they decide to tear down a historic building only to replace it with paid parking.

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