the dame block

the dameNow we finally know. After nearly two years of speculation, plans were officially unveiled yesterday to wipe clean a cherished block along Main Street and essentially ignore the Courthouse Design Area Overlay Zone (designed to preserve historic architecture around the downtown Courthouse) and the Downtown Master Plan (the taxpayer funded recommendations for building heights and pedestrian savvy street designs)

In short, where once stood The Dame, Buster’s and Mia’s – which will become no more than dust and memories by the summer if the plan is approved – will be a 40 story tower with a estimated price tag of $250 million.

I’ll leave the historical and ecological ramifications of such a severe overhaul to wiser minds that deal more readily with those concerns. And let us all suppress snickers over claims that construction of this beast will be finished in time for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in 2010. Let’s just focus for a moment on life without The Dame Block.

Collectively, the three establishments at the corner of Main and Upper are an entertainment block that has become one of the most visibly active centers of downtown nightlife. Maybe to some they are simply a music club, pool hall and bar. But in a city starved for nightlife, especially nightlife that doesn’t drain patrons’ wallets dry, The Dame Block has achieved what few business collectives have over the years: it has brought people downtown.

Is construction necessary on The Dame Block? Absolutely. Ever since the painfully slow erosion and eventual demolition of Woolworth’s, the block is like a face with a few missing teeth. So why not reconstruct what’s left instead of starting anew with a building that extinguishes one of downtown’s few proven, year-round centers of nightlife.

Save the historical structures. Keep the nightlife. Incorporate cutting edge architecture that would make something new and better out of something that is valued but neglected.

And, yes, bringing this around to my cause, the thought of losing or even relocating The Dame – far and away the city’s most respected music establishment – is simply heartbreaking.

So now is the time to let city officials know how you feel. Start by emailing Mayor Jim Newberry at That’s what he’s there for. Express your opinion to your councilman. Tell anyone you know that putting a new face on Main Street doesn’t mean having to destroy the old one.

The plan is now out, but it’s far from a done deal. If keeping a corner of downtown alive with music and nightlife is important, the time to act is now.

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