In my last column for the Sun I wrote that the “decades long neglect of Sweetwater Park” is a reflection of the City’s larger failure to exercise stewardship over downtown in general. Unfortunately, the signs of downtown neglect are all too obvious these days.
The photos above were taken by Ken McGurn during one of the walks he and Linda McGurn take around downtown almost daily.
Those of you who know them know that no entrepreneurs have done more to facilitate downtown redevelopment then Ken and Linda. They have been at it for decades, and they still live and work downtown.
“Do you know the condition of your downtown?,” McGurn wrote in an email to interim City Manager Cynthia Curry. “Do you know how dangerous it is just to walk on some of the sidewalks?”
“Please take a short walk from the City Garage along 1st Avenue to Harrys, then turn south to Lillian’s to get a feel for how bad you have allowed our downtown to become.”
To which Curry responded: “I am sure the degrading conditions in our City’s downtown didn’t start with me over the last six months, but As interim city manager, I now have a role to play in turning these concerns, along with many others, into points of pride for our City. The urgent need for attention to downtown conditions is also recognized by our City Commission and staff will respond.”
And she is correct of course. The decrepit condition of downtown’s infrastructure is due to neglect on the part of successions of city managers and city commissioners over the course of many years. It didn’t happen overnight, and addressing it won’t be a quick fix.
The good news is that the consultants hired by the City and UF to put together a downtown master plan have recognized that good streets and sidewalks are critical to having a successful downtown. The bad news is that addressing the problem won’t be cheap or easy.
I’ll have more to say on this issue in my next column in The Sun. In the meantime, just ask yourself “What’s wrong with these pictures?”