In this particular city, to Keep it Scruffy, of course!
The story of a city's heritage and culture is contained in the books and bindings of its buildings-- its bones. As follows, a city that wants to be a great place must first protect its bones.
But as far as cities go, protecting the skeletons in our closets is only the beginning. Making a great place also requires ENERGY to transform that place into something magical and magnetic—a place to which people are pulled over all the other near-infinite choices laid out before them.
And the making of that energy requires that certain people with vision become catalysts. These certain people must risk their time, their work, their money—essentially, the better part of their lives on behalf of this place. They take great risks to transform the historic bones of their chosen city into a Renaissance of new culture and business.
This energy can be seen physically in the excitement contained in the entrepreneurial businesses that first inhabit the shells of historic Downtown buildings during a City’s revitalization.
So then, we have a definitive answer to the age-old question: it’s fearless chickens first, then eggs… then more chickens.
Of course, there are a LOT of dead fearless chickens around-- brave chickens must also be tough chickens.
And, although some say a critical mass of residents are required to bring anchor businesses to a Downtown. To that, we say, nonsense. The anchors are cool bars, restaurants, cafes and galleries-- the fearless, tough chickens who choose to nest in abandoned Downtowns... and lay golden eggs.
It is only after these street level entrepreneurs and artists enter a boarded up downtown that people wish to visit, and only after people visit and feel that creative energy do some of them choose to live there themselves.
And only after a few thousand of this pioneering flock move into a downtown to be a part of that creative energy-- ONLY then is the demand high enough for the arrival of staple retailers with shoes, drugs, groceries and office supplies.
Lastly, the magic of truly succeeding as a great place is to somehow become successful WITHOUT having its success make that great place generic… generic is not great.
The danger inherent in our own success is that-- if we are not watchful and we let our old buildings be torn down, our trees be made into parking lots, and our local heritage and culture replaced by chain stores and generic buildings-- Downtown Knoxville, Tennessee risks becoming Anywhere, USA.