Then and Now: Fountain Plaza Part 2
These before and after views are extremely revealing as to what is, and what is no longer. Few pictures could depict a segment of the city in greater transition than this Vintage photo of Main street between Genesee Street and Chippewa. As seen here, and in Part One, this block has gone through monumental change in the last 20 years. The densely clustered block of ragged low-rise (mostly) 19th Century commercial buildings has been reinvented as an orderly urban corporate park of mid rise towers.
The 'before view' shows downtown at a major juncture. There was great hope for renewal as subway construction was under way and several large development projects had either started, or were soon to start. Here we see Main Street sliced down the middle for 'at grade' construction of the Metro Rail. The south portion of the Chippewa/Huron block was cleared for the new Liberty Bank Building. The bank would soon move from its long time home at Court Street in an effort to revitalize this long neglected portion of Main.
The old roof top Liberty sign can be seen in the distance on the Court Street building. The picture also shows the Genesee Building as work was beginning to convert it to a hotel. The wonderful large masonry building at the center of the photo (in front of the Genesee) would soon be torn down in that effort. A piece of the Victor Store building is also visible above the Genesee roof line. That building would also come down to make way for an additional wing of the hotel. For several years, prior to the hotel development the Genesee Building, that too was in danger of being lost. It is one of downtown's finest buildings. That it still stands is a testament to the quality of its architecture and to the work of many dedicated people.
During construction of the Metro Rail transit mall down Main there was great anticipation for major growth in downtown. The mall was seen as a way to add excitement to Downtown and compete with suburban shopping centers. Today the mall is seen as and destructive failure and is slated to be removed. The 'now view' shows the completed hotel, bank, and transit mall (seen under construction in the 'then image', but major growth never materialized.
Today again, there is anticipation of great things for downtown. New development projects are announced on a monthly basis and new housing is filled as fast as it is built (getting the highest rents in the area as well). Downtown development planners still have their silver bullet projects in the works, but this time around there seems to be a difference. Today there seems to be a real and growing demand for downtown space of all kinds and development does not always depend on massive government participation. Only time will tell if this is just another dream.