publisher's note
February 27, 2009



It’s really about the money
by Bruce Rodgers

Knowing my extreme dislike for the corporatization of America, I really shouldn’t like the Power & Light District. After all, the Cordish Co., developer of the district, sucked a couple hundred million dollars from the city in tax breaks, is costing the city around $4 million this year to make up shortcomings in bond payments because the district’s inflated revenue predictions got pin-pricked by the economy, has legally contested its tax assessment by Jackson County and the company, itself, is arrogant and supercilious to the point that makes Donald Trump look like practitioner of noblesse oblige.

But I do like going there … when I can afford it. It’s really the atmosphere that I like, the hanging around, walking around and watching people amid the restaurants and bars, and those so few retail outlets. Sure, beer in a plastic cup outside by the big screen is $4 and up, and most mixed drinks cost $5 and up. As for the food — it’s goes from mediocre to very good, all at a good price.

Service, from every business I’ve visited, is uniformly top notch. One doesn’t get the snooty-toot airs of the Plaza that conveys a false sophistication or the “Wait a minute, I’m talking to my girlfriend” look so typical of Westport when trying to order a drink or whatever. As for service at Zona Rosa, I don’t know. I do what most people do that go there — drive around in their cars wondering why no one is walking around in a shopping area that was supposedly designed for pedestrians.

The P&L isn’t perfect — it needs a comedy club and live theater — but it projects some class and it makes this guy feel like “I really am in a big city.” Of course, in big cities it’s a given people dress for the occasion.

I visited the district last Valentine’s Day for dinner and drinks. After a pleasant evening, we cut out early and left through the commons area out onto Grand Ave. There, I spotted a black security guard — or, to some, a fashion police member — closely examining a tear at the knee on a young white man’s jeans. It looked like he had a ruler of sorts, measuring the width and length of the tear. I imagined the conversation going something like this:

Fashion policeman: “Let’s see, according to my allowable tear-in-clothes chart, your knee tear is one-eighth inch too long — can’t let you in.”

Young white guy: “Ooooh, man, all my jeans have rips and tears and, and if I stand up — don’t sit down — it only looks like it's a little tear, almost not there, probably okay by your chart.”

FP: “How am I going to know you’re going to stand up all the time you’re there?”

YWG: “I will, man … won’t get drunk and sit down, don’t have that much money to spend.”

It’s understandable why those folks sensitive to civil rights and racial discrimination dislike the Power & Light District’s dress code. Racial bias can lurk behind any discriminating rule in the land of America. And no politician, least-wise no one on the city council, wants to let an issue like discriminatory dress code restrictions get by without the opportunity to score some political points. Beats the hard-thoughts behind deciding on what to cut in the city’s budget.

But to me, the Cordish Co. considers only the money, in whatever color is the hand that holds it. Cordish, consciously or not, uses the dress code more to weed out people who might not spend any money, and the reality is that minorities don’t have a lot of money to spend. Cordish doesn’t want anyone coming to their district looking like they’re poor, out of work or have some sort to income-generating activity where taxes aren’t taken out.

Let’s face it. People with money to spend want to be around people with money to spend. It’s the reason why developers don’t open new retail and entertainment centers in old, inner city neighborhoods. So when it comes to visiting the Power & Light District, if the jeans are torn or ripped or faded, make sure the designer label is visible to fashion police.

Bruce Rodgers can be contacted at


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