2 Steps Forward (more like 5)
The cement plant at 4th and Iowa is slowing being demolished, as seen at the right.
The old building at 2nd and Ripley that Bill Wundram calls "Willie's place," is being renovated into a "tavern restaurant." As far as I know this is without public funds. Hopefully it's a bit classier than some of the bars downtown. Its already looking better than I remember it during my lifetime.
The QCTimes articles from this weekend point out that work will be beginning soon on even more downtown residential, in the form of the former Salvation Army building. Having this occupied should really make the under-renovation Freight House seem less isolated. One of the articles also mentioned that the Alexander Company is looking at starting on Phase 3 of the Crescent Warehouse District. More residents downtown means more chance of retail taking a chance on the area. Which brings us to...
The Putnam/Parker buildings renovation and remarketing as One Putnam Centre. This is also being done with private money, and the QCTimes article states that they're looking for the type of retail that downtown residents need.
1 Step Back (More like 2)
And now the negative. My favorite restaurant in the QC area, Centro, is closing at the end of this year. I will have to go a couple last times by New Year's. While all the articles say how it wasn't failing, we all know that if the place and been a great success it wouldn't be closing. I do agree with some of the quotes in the articles that they weren't hurting that bad for customers. It seems like whenever I was in there, weekend or weeknight, it was decently busy. Unfortunately, I also never saw it overflowing to where anyone had to wait outside. Why this is, I have no idea. Olive Garden is packed constantly, and I know I'd rather pay a couple extra bucks per meal (and that's all the difference is) to eat at a unique, Iowa-based restaurant rather than the image of corporate dining.
Savitri's also bit the dust, and the planned "Red River Steakhouse" never made it past the "Coming Soon" stage. This one isn't that much of a surprise, as the one time I was in there I only saw one other table in use. The only way I ever heard people describe Savitri's was expensive, and if you're looking for fine dining downtown we already had Duck City. If only a Mexican place would go into that building! Downtown has a variety of food, but that's one of the missing pieces.
Still moving forward:
So a couple of restaurants didn't make it, and a new one's already replacing one of them. According to some, its one more indicator that downtown is a failure. According to most, its something that happens, and is more than balanced by all the progress happening down there. One thing that Centro's failure demonstrates to me is that downtown has an image problem. People are willing to fight Kimberly traffic and park over by Office Max to go to Olive Garden, but not willing to park diagonally across the street in the free parking lot for Centro? Are some people still holding onto the false feeling that downtown is dangerous? Come on folks, 2nd and Main has got to be one of the safest and cleanest intersections in town. I hope that the incoming Woodfire Grill is supported at least as well as any similar NoLo restaurant.