Monday, November 06, 2006

Groundbreaking beer, and a new day dawning in downtown NA.

I’d be guilty of understatement if I were to begin this entry by writing that today was an important day for the city of New Albany.

Of course, it was. While the exact degree of importance will take a few years to measure, there can be no denying that today was a banner day for my city.

Our downtown area has been moribund for decades, but during the past two years, there has been steady and discernable stirring, snooping and scheming. The advent of Bistro New Albany last spring has been celebrated often in this space, but it is just one of the positive developments that are operating or planned soon.

Gradually, people are coming to realize that the city’s old central business district stands an excellent chance of revival by applying just a few of the principles that have worked in other urban areas all around the country, which might be explained as adapting old urban patterns to fit the needs of a new breed of American that appreciates them.

Because new ideas take a while to penetrate to the heartland, it’s taken some time to sell them locally, and to be honest, doing so has provoked some resistance. One such idea that has enjoyed widespread support in the community, but that has proved unduly challenging for some of our less luminous political lights, is the urban renewal project commonly referred to as Scribner Place.

Phase One of Scribner Place calls for the construction of a YMCA and aquatic center, and when the opening segment is off the ground in 2008, there may be a second phase constructed on adjacent land that is timed to take advantage of the downtown growth and consolidation brought about by the success of the first.

A novel public-private partnership has been the impetus for the Scribner Place project. Ground was officially broken earlier today, and in a country increasingly torn by political divisions, it’s a relief to note that the plan’s slow march toward fruition has not been marred by political partisanship in the conventional blue-red sense. Rather, it has been marked by a palpable division between those, irrespective of party affiliation, that can see a wider world and understand what will be required for the city to compete in it, and those who simply cannot.

Somehow all this reminds me of our many years in the mass-market beer wilderness, patiently and painstakingly trying to convince beer drinking consumers that to “drink less, drink better” makes perfectly good sense, that all beer is not yellow and light, and that thinking while drinking is not a contradiction in terms.

After the groundbreaking ceremony today, there was a culinary “taste of NA” reception at the Grand Convention Center, the former theater adjacent to Bistro New Albany. I “sold” a keg (let’s just say at a reduced rate) of Homecoming Common to the Grand, renamed it Progressive Pale for the occasion, and watched with satisfaction as it was enjoyed by several of those in attendance.

Hey, it was lunchtime … and not everyone can justify a liquid lunch quite the same way as I can.

It may not seem like much of note to readers residing in more diverse beery climes, yet I was delighted with my plastic cup of hoppy, amber beer, consumed in a part of town that used to symbolize the city’s success, but for too many years had become the butt of jokes about its failure.

As Scribner Place takes shape, the downtown revival that so far has boasted more dreamy hope than tangible progress surely will finally begin to blossom, and for reasons of commerce, not art: There simply are too many undervalued properties suitable for profitable development according to the New Urbanist playbook, and as this occurs, there will be more eateries, shops and clubs. Then the artistic imperative will be served, as will at least some of our NABC beer. It’s going to be fun serving, growing and drinking with these as yet non-established establishments.

If you don’t believe good beer can be an integral part of a previously ailing downtown district’s revival and subsequent economic well being, jet immediately to Denver, Colorado and stroll through its LoDo (Lower Downtown). Visit the seminal Wynkoop Brewing Company, the brewpub that almost single-handedly spurred the redevelopment that now has spread far beyond it.

And believe in what good beer can do.

No, I’m not running for office. It’s just been that good of a day.


David R. Pierce said...


I'm glad to see a revitialization of NA. I have fond memories of shopping with the parents on Market St. The Fair and Globe (got my first bib overalls here)stores were full service units for clothing, shoes, etc. Good job!

All4Word said...

"No, I'm not running for office?"

As RFK put it, "Why not?"