A while back I attended a seminar featuring Tom Murphy, the former mayor of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who was seen as someone who transformed the city during his time in office from 1994 until 2006. In a Q&A segment, Murphy was asked what he thought of Mobile.
He replied, “it appears to me that you don’t mind living in a ‘this’ll do city.’ By that I mean, it is obvious there are numerous instances where you could have done something really great but instead you settled for, this’ll do.”
It hit me like a ton of bricks, all these years, I along with many others, have wondered just what is wrong with Mobile. I think Murphy’s statement knocked it out of the park.
The recent debacle with the oak trees and planned hotel adjacent to Bienville Square is an excellent example of just what Murphy meant. We could have had an architecturally substantial structure sitting on the border of our iconic, historic square incorporating the existing oak trees. Instead, those that had a say in the process simply said “this’ll do” and now we are stuck with a crappy building and acres of parking lot for the next 40 years.
Look around you; it’s everywhere. The new shopping center near the Hank, it could have been great but instead, “this’ll do.” Water Street could have been green space but, “this’ll do.”
Utilities citywide could be out of sight and underground but “this’ll do.” More thoughtful development could have been put into The Shoppes of Midtown, Bel-Air Mall, Schillinger Road, DIP and Airport Boulevard, but “this’ll do.” The list is endless.
To have a great city takes three major things: money, talent and vision. Of the first we might have a little but of the next two, we have none. I am convinced that until a Tom Murphy comes along we will continue to be stuck with “this’ll do.”