I heard this week about the closing of Cafe Aiello up on Gorham Street: http://www.lowellsun.com/todaysheadlines/ci_9957718
Definitely not a great moment for downtown, and I know there are people far more affected by it than I am. I really loved the place when I first popped in there (while I was scouting out real estate and staying at the DoubleTree), but what makes me a Brew'd Awakening partisan comes primarily down to location but also to the way that the owner (Andy) and the employees (too many to list, but I'll say here that Theo comes to mind quickly) welcomed me. Then what sealed the deal was the hard-core Brew'd Awakening Crowd -- Brandon, Nancy, Theresa, Brenda, Mike, Angel, Laura, and all the rest -- to include the official canine chapter, headed up by Francine, Houston, and Austin.
So if anything ever happened to Brew'd, I'd be beside myself.
And as a supporter of and believer in downtown Lowell, it sucks to see any place go.
The chatter on the Sun bulletin board included plenty of mentions of the location problem, and a handful mentioned the problem posed by the anemic foot traffic often witnessed downtown during the day and sometimes at night (and of course the 'chicken-or-the-egg' question that comes up...is foot traffic so bad because businesses are shuttering up, or vice versa)?
Still, ever the optimist, I'll just say that the full development of the Hamilton Canal District (http://www.hamiltoncanal.com/) is going to help revitalize the entire area on the other side of the Pawtucket Canal from where I live (Market Street).
Obviously, there are going to be conflicting visions for the future of the city.
I'd be more worried if there were a lack thereof and don't plan on moving to North Korea anytime to see their version of consensus.
But one thing I noticed on the Sun bulletin board was the way the whole "blue-collar folks v. condo owner" speech got squashed pretty quickly. I was happy to see the triumph of reason, because I believe that's a textbook example of a false dichotomy. Lowell is a big city. There are 100,000 residents and probably room for plenty more. Even if the downtown demographic were magically transformed into that of the Back Bay tomorrow (and it won't), the Acre would still be the Acre. Centerville would still be Centerville. And so on.
I'll give you three reasons just to start -- Chelmsford, Andover, and Lexington.
As long as there are places to live with big lawns and great public schools, there isn't going to be some sudden pricing squeeze that's somehow going to force all Lowellians out of their neighborhoods. The Merrimack Valley's economy is only going to support so many single people, young DINK* couples, retirees, and so forth to come live in downtown Lowell.
And in the meantime (and for plenty years to come, given the looming Hamilton Canal plans --forgive me but yes the 'loom' pun was intended) what may be best for downtown, and the city in general, may be more of those people coming in to burn up that disposable income on beers, burritos, and Spinners tickets.
The neighborhoods will still maintain their character, the sky won't fall, and the earth will maintain that neat little rotation-on-the-axis thing it's been doing so well for all these years.
*Dual Income, No Kids