March 10, 2022- I read this evening that a property owner in our downtown area wants to build a six-story hotel, across from the Courthouse. The lines are drawn, in the public sphere, between those who think it’s high time modern architecture takes over and those who value the sense of history. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, the members of the former group are about evenly split between Prescott natives and transplants from other parts of the country. The latter group includes more transplants from urban areas, signaling that many people come here specifically for the Old West ambiance and the surrounding natural beauty. Many Prescott natives seem to take these features for granted, saying that one can’t eat or pay bills with history and nature.
Other communities, across the country, and across the globe, have taken this stance: Salem, MA has opted for high rise apartment buildings near downtown, the likes of which would be not out of place in several areas of Manhattan, or any number of European cities. Flagstaff and Tempe, in the name of “student housing”, have built large residential complexes in what had been rather charming neighbourhoods. Jeju, Korea, where we lived from 1987-1992, was virtually unrecognizable, when I revisited in 2019. It’s said that higher density is more efficient-and better for business.
I get a much more positive sense from striking a balance. History, even that which is only from the last century, is crucial to our sense of continuity, to our identity. Those who have been following this site since its inception know also that I favour well-tended natural settings. Nature teaches us the importance of balance and recognizing the interplay between serenity and dynamism. I am gratified that our City Council is oriented towards sensible growth, and has worked to protect a significant area of the Granite Dells, north of downtown. Likewise, the bulk of Prescott National Forest is being safeguarded from wildcat development.
On balance, history and nature do generate income and can co-exist with industrial and technological pursuits, given responsible use of zoning. I call this state of affair ecosynthesis.