Borders Books is closing its downtown Boston branch (where I've done almost all my Christmas shopping over the past decade), which means more debate over why a growing, prosperous city has such a crummy central shopping district. The Filene's Pit debacle is one reason, of course, but there must be ways to improve the neighborhood around that giant hole on Washington Street, just as Boston should be able to fix up the Government Center area instead of being distracted by the unlikely prospect of tearing down City Hall. (Both places were in my "10 Worst Things About Boston" post.)
Tuesday's Boston Herald has some suggestions from its business writers for turning things around. But I can't imagine a casino being a good thng, despite Frank Quaratiello's argument that it would bring "foot traffic" and fill in storefronts. Don't gambling establishments offer cheap food and drink and do all they can to stop people from leaving? Are people really going to play the slots and then drop $80 for a meal at BIna Osteria or Petit Robert?
Besides, a lack of foot traffic isn't really the problem. There are plenty of pedestrians at all hours of the day, thanks in part to all the workers in the area. Nighttime is a different story, and other Herald writers are correct to urge more housing and round-the-clock activities, though I think the city has already been aiming for that.
My suggestion is cut back on the glitz (which is proliferating nicely in other parts of the city) and turn Downtown Crossing into an historic district.