To the editor:
A colleague, Professor Jan Wirrer, at the University of Bielefeld, Germany, recently shared with me a letter he wrote in September to the editor of his local newspaper. His letter criticizes the city government and the citizens of his home community, Spenge, for neglecting to stop large shopping centers on the outskirts of town from ruining the old downtown and heart of the city. I thought the last two paragraphs of his letter, in my translation, might be of local interest:
"There is no basis for the contention that we are confronted here with a worldwide phenomenon that cannot be stopped. The university town of Lawrence, Kansas, is a vigorous example of the opposite kind of development policy, even though Lawrence is situated in the middle of the U.S., a country in which such bad city planning as described above (in his letter) is even more advanced.
"There the citizens have successfully defended themselves against the destruction of the inner city by such projects as large shopping centers in the cornfields and industrial districts. The result is a lively downtown with numerous specialty shops, cafes, restaurants, several galleries and much more. In other words, it has a vibrant downtown where people like to be."
Jan Wirrer and his wife spent two weeks in Lawrence last April in conjunction with a conference held at Kansas University.