An unexpected satisfaction of following cities in our American Futures travels has been watching plans and projects unfold in real time.
For instance, last fall we were in Allentown, Pa., with our Marketplace colleagues, as the city was racing against the clock to get a big new downtown arena ready for a sold-out debut concert by The Eagles. Could they possibly get the construction finished and the roads repaved and the restaurants ready and the parking snarls worked out in time for an event on which the city had pinned such hopes?
They were confident; we were dubious; but it turned out they were right. The event ran smoothly; the crowds were big and pleased; the downtown-rebirth plan so far seems to be on course (for instance, this announcement today). This fall we'll be back to see how things are going one year in.
We've seen something similar underway in Fresno, California, which is at a much earlier point on the urban-revival timeline. (I sketched out that timeline in an earlier post.)
A year ago, my wife Deb and I happened to meet Craig Scharton, a Fresno entrepreneur, publican, and civic evangelist, at a conference of California-city officials, held at Yosemite. He said that Fresno's recovery was about to happen. We were intrigued, visited Fresno for a few days on our way out of Yosemite, and then thought (but did not say), Are you kidding? But we've stayed in touch with Scharton and other locals, we've made two more reporting visits there, and as chronicled in a series of posts we have become impressed by the ways in which people in Fresno are trying to wrestle with the city's glaring economic, environmental, urban-planning, workforce, and social problems.
We have several installments to go, including on ways to get the area's economically left-out groups into modern tech jobs, and the edgy and aspiring arts scene in this capital of farmland California. But before that, here's a real-time update on event last night.