If Marian McCue’s Forecaster Forum about Congress Square Plaza appeared 30 years ago, it would have been on target. Today it is an opinion based on lack of facts.
The plaza was established to replace a rundown section patronized by alcoholics, drug addicts, and drug dealers with a gathering for area residents, a neighborhood rest area that also would provide enjoyment for visitors.
Unfortunately, the dream turned into a nightmare. Blame can be shared by many, but the cause is not as important as the remedy. I lived at the Eastland Park Hotel for 18 years and I had many opportunities to to observe the activity that goes on. My experiences were not random, but constant.
I can tell you that the plaza is not and has not been a source of enjoyment for area residents, but is a haven for alcoholics, druggies, and sexual activity – the very same activities that it was supposed to replace. Although people constantly complained to police, city councilors and any one else that would listen, we came to realize that even with their best efforts it is impossible to police the plaza without 24-hour surveillance.
Allowing Westin Hotels to use part of the space, and leaving a park that can be used by area and hotel residents while making police protection realistic, is an idea that serves everybody. Let us not forget that downtown is also for businesses, and the only only way to attract economic development is to provide a combination of opportunity with desirable space.
Norman S. Reef