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Opinion: Worthy challenges hard but rewarding

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“If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. It’s the hard that makes it great.”

Tom Hanks’ character in “A League of Their Own” spoke those words about the game of baseball.
President John F. Kennedy reminded and challenged Americans that “this country of the United States was not built by those who waited and rested and wished to look behind them. This country was conquered by those who moved forward.

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to
accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”

What will “organize and measure the best of our energies and skills” in Springfield in 2010?

I believe one of the other things that Kennedy deliberately noted includes earthly endeavors such as revitalizing our urban areas.

Ten years ago, few envisioned the beauty of Jordan Valley Park and thousands of fans at Hammons Field. Five years ago, no one imagined creating an IDEA Commons research park from a vacant feed mill. Three years ago, community health needs were vastly underserved in a cramped Jordan Valley Health Center. One year ago, the Wheeler’s Building was an empty shell awaiting its new Price Cutter grocery store and lofts.

Despite these significant achievements, there is still much work left to be done. Once-proud buildings such as Heer’s, Woodruff, McDaniel, Newberry and Woolworth remain dark. Local retail is coming back but has yet to achieve adequate economies of scale. Not enough major employers follow BKD’s and Husch Blackwell Sanders’ examples by investing in center city.

The homeless continue to reach out for help. Alternative transportation is still the exception and not the rule. Too few families consider center city schools and neighborhoods. Too many still have outdated perceptions of downtown from the 1980s.

Just as the space race required the expertise of hundreds of thousands of people from across the country, creating a more vibrant and inviting center city for Springfield is a team effort. Many dedicated developers, business owners, residents, students and community leaders already have stepped forward to contribute time, talents and treasure. They are tackling challenges they are unwilling to postpone and determined to win.

Supporting that pioneer spirit is as easy as going to dinner, consciously choosing to buy your next gift downtown or bringing the family to a community event. That part isn’t rocket science.
Finally, Tom Hanks stated in the HBO miniseries “From the Earth to the Moon”: “From now on we live in a world where man has walked on the moon. It’s not a miracle; we just decided to go.”
We can achieve what is hard in center city revitalization, if enough of us decide to go.

Rusty Worley, executive director of Urban Districts Alliance, can be reached at rusty@itsalldowntown.com.[[In-content Ad]]

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