23 January 2006

Where Else Should It Go?

I only occassionally agree with conservative Denver Post columnist David Harsanyi, but today is one of those days. The issue, neighborhood opposition to moving a McDonalds a couple blocks from one place on East Colfax (Denver's troubled "main street" as promoters like to call it) to another into a former used car lot. His question is the right one:

If Denver can't zone a McDonald's on Colfax Avenue, where exactly would residents like the city to put it?

While his characterization of East Colfax is harsh (and the long stretch of road is not uniform across its length), it isn't that far off either:

For some, no matter how hideous Colfax Avenue looks, no matter how many prostitutes, nomadic beggars or drug dealers feel at home, the most noteworthy problem was "gentrification."

One letter writer replied that he had "rarely" felt "such anger." He must have missed the abandoned businesses that line Colfax. Unless I missed all the families strolling along with ice-cream cones and balloons.

Once again, one of my favorite bits of wisdom from Voltaire comes to mind. "The best is the enemy of the good." McDonalds is not what you want on your dream main street, but it is a fair sight better than a payday loan storefront, pawn shop, hourly hotel for prostitutes, or, dare I say it, a used car lot. But, you have to start somewhere, and fast food joints and drugstores are typically in the vanguard of the process of reclaiming a blighted neighborhood, like most of East Colfax, and returning it to a stable one. While cities should endeavor to keep grossly incompatable uses like factories and homes apart, when you buy property, this does not give you a veto over the entire neighborhood's land use decisions either.

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