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Lights - Windows - Action

by Dennis Marsoun

January 3,2004

“Looking for an answer / Trying to find a sign / Until I saw your city lights honey /I was blind.”

Thanks to Elton John for those lyrics from his hit song, Honky Cat. It could just as easy be: “How ya gonna keep’em down on the farm after they’ve seen Paree.”

These are the thoughts that came to mine as I read about Summit Properties, Inc.’s plans for the old Convention Center site. I read about the concern about light pollution, and then thought about Elton John.

Lights, lights and more lights, please! Put an end to the canyon walls that can be found all around the city. Nothing calls out better to a passerby than a well-lit window with lots of activity and color.

College Street has established itself as a place for clubs and nightlife. Tryon Street is not too far behind with the likes of Ri-Ra’s, Therapy Café, Grand Central Deli and Rock Bottom.

The arena will bring an average of, let’s say, 10,000 people a night into the Center City for about 180 nights a year. My math says that means 1.8 million faces on the street looking for something to do before and after these events.

Now, let’s say, conservatively, only 15% of these people actually spend money. That still means over a quarter of a million folks with cash in hand. Where will they spend it? Anywhere they feel welcome, and lights, windows and activity welcome people.

While I do not want to become a member of the light police, I don’t believe that Charlotte is on its way to becoming Las Vegas East, and neither should you. Our conservative roots make us slow to change, so don’t expect a three-story light display of a fan dancer to grace (or not grace) Trade Street.

More windows will be part of our future. The Arts & Sciences Council’s plans for the next twenty five years feature changing Discovery Place to include windows on 6th Street, and the potential of a modern art gallery at the Carolina Theater that would have windows on the street.

While we are at it, let’s start a campaign to strip the walls off the Duke property on the corner of College and 2nd, and add lights, windows and action. With the area around the new convention center and nearby hotels prime for nightlife, let’s give them something to talk about.

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