"I threaten every now and then to just start playing golf. But I
have more fun over here than I do on a golf course."
tuscumbia: a model?
can other small towns struggling to breathe life back into their
downtowns learn anything from tuscumbia? does it take a generous,
committed millionaire to make something happen? not necessarily,
says harvey robbins.
when robbins is asked, as he often is, what can be done to revive
other downtowns, he suggests a starting point: find the equivalent
of the palace and bring it to life. "what i tell most of them is,
'well, if you want to do it like i did it, find the store or
location in town that used to be the hangout,'?" he says. "?'what's
the best memory you had in your little town? where was it?' i say
start right there."
that's just what many downtowns of all sizes are doing around the
country, according to david feehan, president of the washington,
d.c.-based international downtown association, a nonprofit that
assists communities in their revitalization efforts. yakima,
washington, is just one of many examples. their palace, so to
speak, is the capital theater. "they're organizing around this
capital theater," feehan says. "again, it's something everyone
loves going to, and it's a terrific place. they're building, in
almost concentric circles around the theater, some very interesting
revitalization projects and plans."
tuscumbia isn't the only town where a generous patron has
spearheaded a downtown comeback. the same has happened in holland,
michigan, where 80 percent of the retail space was once available,
and now there's a waiting list - a development thanks in large part
to a wealthy benefactor. "when you get someone who really takes on
an effort like this with passion, and who has the wherewithal and
does their homework," feehan says, "there's no end to what you can