by Pete Mazzaccaro
It’s been a tough year.
As I read year-end wrap ups in the news, there was a lot about which to be utterly pessimistic.
Housing sales might have hit all-time lows. Flooding around the globe has been at an all-time high. Taxes are going up as incomes are going down. Historians say Congress has not been this dysfunctional since Andrew Johnson was president during the Reconstruction era in the late 1860s. That’s a lot of bad news.
But what do you do with that information? Bury your head in the sand? Get back to work on that bomb shelter? Wait patiently for the zombie apocalypse?
You can do all those things. But people aren’t hard wired for that. Most of us, even at our worst moments, are natural optimists. Even when we’re quick to find the faults and problems all around us, we don’t want to give up. We keep on keepin’ on.
Evidence of this could be seen in news reports about holiday spending. The doom and gloom of the news didn’t keep people from spending more than they have since the financial flop of 2007. I wouldn’t want to make a whole lot out of people’s willingness to spend themselves back into happiness for the holidays, but it does, I think, illustrate the point. People were just plain tired of being pessimistic and they went out shopping like there really was a better tomorrow.
In Chestnut Hill, we’ve had the same mixed bag of fortunes in 2011. The year began with a spattering of high profile closings: Solaris Grill, Cuba, TLA Video – to name a few. We also saw an unprecedented amount of conflict over land-use issues, including the Green Woods Charter School and the Magarity Ford redevelopment.
As we head into 2012, though, we can look at some nice additions to the Avenue. Mica, Chestnut 7 and, soon, Iron Hill are reinvigorating the neighborhood’s restaurant scene. A bunch of new businesses too numerous to name have taken residency along the Avenue, too.
Off the business path, there has been a lot of other news to look forward to. Soon, construction will begin on a new Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting House that will bring with it a Skyspace installation by the internationally respected artist James Turrell.
There are more positive signs of life in the local arts community: The Woodmere Art Museum is enjoying a renaissance of popularity that is putting the local art institution on the map as go-to spot for Philadelphia artists, both old and new. We’ve seen several terrific exhibits staged by the Chestnut Hill Arts Initiative.
We’ve seen the opening of Musehouse, a brand new spot for writers and artists that is hosting book readings and workshops.
By naming these specifics, I expect a raft of emails and letters from those who will point out what I’ve missed – the new businesses that deserve mention, the new arts initiatives and galleries I’ve overlooked. I understand, though, that the above examples are only a small bit of the whole. I only have so many inches to carry on in this (almost) space every week.
Regardless, I welcome the friendly reminder of those bright spots that deserve a mention as the year ends. We can all use a reminder of something for which to be optimistic.