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Best Irony in Urban Redevelopment 

Fillmore Street's "Walk of Fame"

The story of redevelopment in the Fillmore District has been told enough times that it has become our own cautionary tale about the evils of urban renewal. Reduced to its essence, the story goes something like this: Vibrant African-American neighborhood known as "Harlem of the West" is razed in the name of urban renewal during the 1960s. Thousands leave their homes, businesses close. The Fillmore Center eyesore is built, and Safeway, Subway, Pizza Hut, and McDonald's appear. Chapter 2 began about six years ago when the Redevelopment Agency announced plans for the Fillmore Jazz Preservation District, which would bring back the clubs that were pushed out decades ago. Yet despite years of planning, only one club -- Rasselas -- has opened. Other than that, the only things new on Fillmore these days are sidewalk bricks engraved with the names of neighborhood musicians and one-time visitors like Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, and Thelonious Monk. Granite flagstones mark the former locations of clubs such as the Texas Playhouse and Jimbo's Bop City. Some $5 million went into the street improvement project, providing new lights, trees, benches, and historical markers, but nobody's hearing much music. It seems jazz preservation doesn't have a lot to do with music; it's more about writing history into the sidewalk.


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