Now get down there and look busy

James Lileks contemplates life from the skyway above the street:

It’s a whole new world up there on the second floor — which annoys the planners, because they want everyone to be down on the street, for the sake of Vitality. This way you get more shops on the street level, and people are strolling and looking in the shop windows, something mentioned in each-and-every story I ever read about new urbanist ideas. Ideally people should live six blocks from work, walk on the sidewalk to work, pause twice en route to work and twice on the way back to examine the goods in the window, and then return to their home on the 23rd floor.

This will not happen downtown and it will never happen downtown, because there’s the skyway culture above. It will happen in outlying neighborhoods, where there aren’t skyways, and the residential complexes form actual neighborhoods. But the priests of The Street will continue to pound away against the skyway and for the model of Paris or New York. Which are wonderful: who doesn’t like window-shopping in New York? But that’s a city with the inherited density of a century and the population of the entire state of Minnesota.

The same is true here. They want New York, but in the convenient Home Version: open the box, put this over here, put that way back there, and garnish lovingly with pedestrians. This resembles the real New York hardly at all, but that doesn’t matter: the point is to be able to show off to people from Portland or Omaha or Charlotte.


  1. Tatyana »

    4 April 2014 · 8:28 am

    It’s difficult to imagine, but apparently – not ALL want New York! (I knoooow – shocking)
    F.i., right now I sorta entertain a friend who is on a business trip from London. The only neighborhood she liked so far is not Financial, nor Garment, nor Meet districts, and not Times sq: she liked West Village. As in: european-looking narrow curving streets with “quaint” assortment of shops and occupants. She feels at home there – and that’s that is NY place I like the least.

  2. Tatyana »

    4 April 2014 · 8:29 am

    Meat, not Meet! argh.

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