A few days ago, I walked through downtown.
From the Old City Cemetery I made my way east, hopping the Chain of Parks, passed The House That Rhymes, my neck craned to catch just-a-glimpse-of-something through the shadowed windows of Park Avenue Inn, rounding the corner south by a Murderer’s Row of dealmakers, then back up toward Monroe, our main drag pumping cars to the beat beat beat of streetlights.
I was, for a few quiet moments, lost in the anonymous brilliance of a great urban experience. It was fleeting, like the birds about the trees above, but it was there.
Here, then, is the thing: I don’t think you know your city until you walk it. And I don’t think you know downtown until you give it a stroll. Since finding my way to Tallahassee a few years ago, I’ve grown quite fond of this place among the seven hills. Not just because of the many things it does have — more and more of which appears each day —but, frankly, because of the many things it doesn’t.
Never has there been a better time to live in this Capital City, and yet never has there been more that we must do, that we must accomplish, that we must push for, the cynics be damned. Never has there been a better time to dig in, set priorities and create the kind of community we want to call home.
We are a city hungry for its future.
A city at a crucial moment in history when it must do the real work of tearing down old barriers and building new relationships. Downtown, the heart of our community, finds itself at the intersection of that work.
Downtown is where the past meets the future. It is where the city meets the trees. Where new ideas meet old buildings. Where our shame meets our hope.
When we do it right, downtown is where we come together.
Strong communities have strong downtowns. They are living bellwethers of commerce, civics and art. They are indicative of our appetite for big ideas, an urban arc traced across our history, and a measure of what we value most.
This place doesn’t owe us anything. It’s already given us almost 200 years. It’s us — it’s you and me — that owe it a little something. We owe it our best selves. We owe it to honor the past. We owe it to invest in the future and continue building great urban experiences.
We owe downtown, every now and then, a walk, just a passing chance for it to show us something old and teach us — if we are lucky, if we are listening, if we are ready — something new.