Monday, July 2, 2007

Eyeing the Future

Does she look nervous? She should. She's looking over one of the many plywood fences that have been propped up around her neighborhood in recent weeks. For the time being she can be found along the boardwalk near Stillwell Avenue and 15 Street, but those fences are surrounding a lot that the city redevelopment plan has its eyes on, and the building she's on may not be around very long. She has a right to be wary.

But at least everyone has toned down the acid-trippy neon extravaganzas, with soaring LED-lit arcade walkways in place of the boardwalk (ala Freemont Street in Vegas) with roller coasters zipping overhead and hologram advertising everywhere. There may have even been flying cars in those early artist renderings, too.

They soon realized that nobody was going to fall for that sort of tinsel, but it was enough of a shiny object to get everyone's attention tuned for the potential. Now that Astroland has been sold, by next year most of the rides and attractions will have been dismantled and moved elsewhere. The Wonder Wheel was landmarked by the city in 1989, so it won't be going anywhere. It shouldn't be going anywhere, at least.

Still, it's hard to find out exactly what is going to be built. The developer, Thor Equities, does its largest business in shopping malls, and high-end ones at that. The kind with the words "Gallery at" in their names. "The Shoppes at Mermaid Avenue" might be a good name for this project, only the shoppes have to include a bodega and a newsstand, a dive hotel and some bus stops. They want to put housing here, too, which the city isn't crazy about, as they've laid out plans for street and parkland upgrades with just an entertainment angle in mind. None of the official city plans address development within the Astroland property.

She keeps her vigil for now. Although chances are she'll soon be watching a preview of the fate to eventually befall her before long.

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