Monday, November 20, 2006

'Tis the Season (Reprise')

Kathleen Merryman offers a nice column in this morning's edition of The News Tribune about the tree that is, of course, the focal point for the 60th annual Holiday Tree Lighting set to take place next week in front of the Pantages Center. Especially nice is her observation that "[a]s the downtown has blossomed, [the tree] has seemed to wear its decorations with increasing elan."

Like most things with a long and distinguished history, the Holiday Tree Lighting is something old school that now has the opportunity to morph into something really hot. This year--for the first time--the event is being staged right after work on a weeknight rather than on a weekend evening. The change was suggested in recognition of the changing demographics of downtown--fewer families with young children, more singles and empty nesters. Organizers also hope that the timing change will keep downtown employees around for a while after work; merchants will be open extra long hours to handle the additional traffic.

Sixty years ago, downtown was the center of civic life for Tacoma--that's still true today. Downtown was an active, energetic business location--despite many years of struggle, this is probably more true today than it's been in the past three decades. Downtown in 1946 was not a growing residential neighborhood--that's a bellwether change with hundreds of new living units currently being built and occupied. One of the most important drivers for continued progress is the sense that there's a "there" here--creating and maintaining a sense of community--and events like the tree lighting are both a reflection of and a support for that sense.

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