Actually, Naysayers, Change Is Inevitable

Sooner or later, every urban reformer is confronted with some local leader or newspaper commenter who rejects ideas to improve the way cities work, on the grounds that, essentially, cities don’t work that way now.

St. Louis' Washington Avenue loft area was once just a dream, but it now serves as powerful evidence of the desirability of urban life in the region. Photo: Urban Review STL

Today on the Streetsblog Network, Steve Patterson at Urban Review STL summarizes this phenomenon nicely:

The phrase “the reality is…” is often followed by statements reinforcing the status quo. This is usually presented as a rational perspective, but I see it as justification for not rocking the boat. Those who take this approach dismiss those of us who vision something other than what we have now as merely academic exercises.

Take downtown as one example. A dozen years ago these same types said things like “the reality is…”

  • “downtowns are dead”
  • “if people wanted lofts the market would’ve responded”
  • “Sure people want lofts in NYC or Chicago, but St. Louis isn’t either of those”

These naysayers are excellent at explaining why the rest of us can’t reach our visions, freely giving every reason why what we want won’t possibly work. They keep saying these things even when others get together and find ways to do things differently. Smart money is in the suburbs, they’d say. But things change. Downtown, and urban neighborhoods, are still getting investment while many suburban areas struggle.

Change, as they say, is the only constant, and people who seek to halt or deny often end up on the wrong side of history.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Stop and Move writes that the Frenso Bee’s recent investigation of pedestrian deaths is mostly an exercise in shamelessly blaming the victims. Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space reports that Nantucket is seeking ways to reduce car traffic and preserve the quality of life that has made it a tourism destination. And Boston Biker shares a video from the Detroit Art Show, where a group of art students crashed the proceedings riding phantom bicycles.