How to Brew a Midwest Downtown Renaissance

By John Burtka III

Grand River Brewery

JACKSON, Mich.—With a renewed interest in Middle America, it is a good time to examine both the plight of our Rust Belt urban centers and their untapped assets.

The Great Lakes region in particular is characterized by classic downtowns sporting Italianate-style buildings made from the venerable Chicago Common brick. Some even feature architectural works of art by famed designers like Detroit’s Albert Kahn. Today this once vibrant part of our country—filled with hard working, second-generation Americans and underutilized downtowns—is experiencing a quiet renaissance spurred by unlikely sources.

Despite going through one of the toughest economic downturns since the Great Depression, the Great Lakes region still has a fair amount of large businesses and corporate headquarters in hundreds of medium-sized urban centers. Yet these companies are fighting a revolving door: new hires cost them excessive amounts of money to train, and too soon they find themselves retraining replacements. Why? According to Governing magazine

…the millennial generation, adults 34 and younger, many of whom continue to express a preference for walkable neighborhoods with bike lanes, public transit and a mix of recreational amenities. Last year, millennials became the largest component of the American workforce. … In 2013, the Urban Land Institute found that 62 percent of millennials preferred a home close to shops, restaurants and offices.

Smaller urban areas suffer from vacant storefronts, lack of dining and entertainment options, and, most importantly, market-rate housing. Since the 1970s, businesses have fled to malls and highway interchanges as well-meaning but misguided planners turned much of the existing downtown residential inventory into federally-subsidized, low-income housing. Because of the lack of housing choices, new millennial hires often choose to live a long commute away—in bigger urban cores where they can find the lifestyle they prefer. But after driving through the snowy Great Lakes winter, many quit and instead find employment they can easily walk or bike to in larger cities. In short, this new workforce prioritizes their living environment over job loyalty.

So how does a town attract businesses to save their Midwestern Main Street? There are five key ingredients:

Infrastructure. Local government must invest in downtown roads, streetscapes, placemaking, parks, and trails. If you have the vestiges of 1970s urban planning, such as roads turned into walking plazas or one-way bypasses speeding potential customers around and away from downtown businesses, you must remove these impediments to growth now. Many of these projects can take advantage of federal and state incentives that already exist.
Entertainment. One of the fastest ways to rejuvenate a downtown is to encourage development of restaurants and pubs. Basic local tax incentives, a progressive Downtown Development Authority, and a destination venue such as a craft brewery or distillery can serve as a focal point to start the resurgence. Many states offer redevelopment-zone liquor licenses at reasonable rates to spur growth.
Market-Rate Housing. Many downtowns have vacant lots that are available for new construction of market-rate apartments. Finding willing developers can be a challenge; even though available apartment inventory is low, the prevailing market rental rates are still …read more

Via:: American Conservative


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God Save(d) The Birra Nursia

By Rod Dreher

Father Martin Bernhard, in the Birra Nursia brewery

The New York Times, of all places, proclaims the joyful news that the Birra Nursia brewery was spared the horrible Norcia earthquake! More:

“Remarkably, the brewery was hardly damaged,” the Rev. Benedict Nivakoff, who is from Connecticut, said during a chilly morning walk through the devastated town center. “The fermenters were loosed, but they’re tall and heavy, and so they didn’t fall.”

The monks are planning to move the beer from the brewery to a safer location, where it can be bottled and specially labeled before it is sold to raise money for reconstruction, Father Nivakoff said.

The monks set up a website for their fund-raising efforts after the basilica and monastery had been weakened by earthquakes and aftershocks in August.

“The campaign started then — now we need to add a few more zeros,” said Father Nivakoff, the prior of the monastery.


The monks, in the tradition of St. Benedict, who believed they should live and support themselves by the work of their hands, intend to keep the brewery small. That way, Brother Wilmeth said, “it will stay in our control and really serve monastic life, not overwhelm and consume us.”

The monastery’s beer varieties quickly gained an enthusiastic following in local shops and restaurants, and the brewery began exporting to the United States this year. If many of the regional venues that sold the beer are shuttered because of the earthquake, it is still available through American importers, the monks said.


Father Martin Bernhard, in the Birra Nursia brewery

The beer has also become very much a part of their lives. If fund-raising efforts can help both the sanctuary and Norcia live again, they say, the monks are happy to repay their benefactors — even in a small, frothy way.

“We are proud that we are American,” said the Rev. Martin Bernhard, who is from Texas and is the cellarer of the monastery. “To taste and buy our beer is a beautiful thing for us.”

Read the whole thing.

You could contribute to the cause by, well, contributing directly to the cause, or by mail-ordering some Birra Nursia for Christmas. It’s not cheap; the monks only produce 10,000 bottles per year. And it’s not cheap to have shipped from the distributor in California. But if you have been richly blessed this year and can afford it … I recommend the Extra. The last sip I had of it was at table in the refectory in Norcia this past February. In my memory, it has become the most delicious, precious beer imaginable.

…read more

Via:: American Conservative


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Church As Institutional Failure

By Rod Dreher

Many comments on this new Pope Francis thread from Catholics and others are really sobering and thoughtful about the state of Christianity in our country. A couple:


[Quoting another reader:]

The cover-up by the Bishops struck at the heart of the moral and spiritual authority of the Church in the West. There is now this kind of uncomfortable silence…and anger: “Don’t you even try to challenge us on the moral issues that we are dealing with in our complicated private lives, with the way you dealt with your own dirty laundry.””

I think this is very true and will be true until the Church engages in a fearless and searching reckoning of the crisis and is transparent with the laity. And the clergy who covered up these abuses must pay a price for the cover ups not retire to comfortable positions like Cardinal Law.

However, the laity is not justified in ignoring the commandments because of the transgressions of a small minority of the clergy and the Church does not belong to the offending clergy. It is so much more than the clergy. Do not let them take it away from us or cause us to discard it.

Elizabeth Anne:

It’s not just anger. The clergy scandal irrevocably and permanently altered the way all the Catholics I know think about the church. In short, except for a VERY small core of Catholics I know who are able to separate the men from the institution, none of them are at all willing to believe anymore that the Roman Catholic Church is in any way a special institution with a particular right to dictate morality.

I live now in a very Catholic area (Wisconsin) with Catholic family. And the abuse scandals simply undid their faith in the church as an authority. Most of them have either left and will not go back or go with an insistence on a hands off approach wherein the priests and especially the bishops have absolutely no right to dictate morality to them. A few have gone the other extreme and jumped into sedevacantist RadTrad camps.

I think this is nowhere more painfully obvious than in the statistics out of Ireland. But you can see it everywhere.


It’s not the sex abuse scandal.

Take my parish where my kids attend school. Very conservative, orthodox priest. He even has introduced Latin into our Novus Ordo liturgy. It is a parish in a politically/culturally conservative neighborhood. The school is amazing. Prayer is an active part of their school day, and they focus a lot on faith formation.

That said, hardly any of people who send their kids to school at our parish go to mass regularly. I’m in my early 30s and so are the other parents in my kids’ classes. It is nothing like I remember being in Catholic school in the 90s, when you saw everybody at mass on Sunday. If anyone does go, it is the mothers and kids. Fathers rarely go to mass.

Why is this not the sex abuse scandal? Because these people who don’t …read more

Via:: American Conservative


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The revolution that gave us Brexit and Trump could be about to hit France

By Adam Shaw In HBO’s “Westworld” — about a Wild West theme park populated by robots — there is a scene in which a robot character unloads his pistol at a human “guest.” When the approaching human shrugs off the bullets (one of the rules is that no robot can harm a human), the robot gawks in disbelief. Yet instead of trying something new, he merely reloads and keeps impotently shooting. …read more

Via:: Fox Opines


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93-year-old World War II hero: Here’s why the ‘9/11 law’ is all wrong for our military

By Hershel “Woody” Williams A couple of years ago, honored as keynote speaker at a gala hosted by the stunning Pritzker Military Museum and Library in Chicago, I asked those assembled a question that I never stopped asking myself upon receiving this nation’s highest honor, the Medal of Honor: Why me? For, over the course of my service in Iwo Jima during World War II, there were men around me whom I had always thought gave so much more to the war effort—to our fight for freedom–and of those men, too many among them who never returned home, never got to experience once again the country that led the world living the values for which they sacrificed themselves. …read more

Via:: Fox Opines


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Who Normalized the Word, “Normalize?”

By Noah Millman

Matt Yglesias has a smart piece up at Vox about how the opposition to Trump should stop focusing on his “violation of norms” and focus on the issues:

Normalization, in this context, is typically cast as a form of complicity with Trump in which the highest possible premium is placed on maintaining a rigid state of alert and warning people that he is not just another politician whom you may or may not agree with on the issues.

But several students of authoritarian populist movements abroad have a different message. To beat Trump, what his opponents need to do is practice ordinary humdrum politics. Populists in office thrive on a circus-like atmosphere that casts the populist leader as persecuted by media and political elites who are obsessed with his uncouth behavior while he is busy doing the people’s work. To beat Trump, progressives will need to do as much as they can to get American politics out of reality show mode.

Trump genuinely does pose threats to the integrity of American institutions and political norms. But he does so largely because his nascent administration is sustained by support from the institutional Republican Party and its standard business and interest group supporters. Alongside the wacky tweets and personal feuds, Trump is pursuing a policy agenda whose implications are overwhelmingly favorable to rich people and business owners. His opponents need to talk about this policy agenda, and they need to develop their own alternative agenda and make the case that it will better serve the needs of average people. And to do that, they need to get out of the habit of being reflexively baited into tweet-based arguments that happen on the terrain of Trump’s choosing and serve to endlessly reinscribe the narrative of a champion of the working class surrounded by media vipers.

Even serious allegations of corruption will not have the effect that opponents hope:

Jan-Werner Müller, a Princeton political scientist who recently published an excellent little book about authoritarian populist movements, finds that Trump supporters’ indifference to Trump’s corrupt leanings is actually rather typical. Even when clear evidence of corruption emerges once an authoritarian populist regime is in place, the regime’s key supporters are generally unimpressed.

“The perception among supporters of populists is that corruption and cronyism are not genuine problems as long as they look like measures pursued for the sake of a moral, hardworking ‘us’ and not for the immoral or even foreign ‘them,’” he writes, “hence it is a pious hope for liberals to think that all they have to do is expose corruption to discredit populists.”

I’ll be writing more about why charges of corruption, or fears thereof — which are most assuredly legitimate — are not getting much political traction. For now, though, the important thing for the opposition party to internalize is that they have to defeat Trump on the merits, on some combination of “he not doing what he promised,” and “he’s doing what he promised and it’s having a disastrous impact on people.”

But I want to …read more

Via:: American Conservative


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Introducing TAC’s New Editor

By TAC Staff

The American Conservative is thrilled to announce the appointment of Robert W. Merry as its new editor. In this position Bob succeeds Daniel McCarthy, who has stepped down to pursue new endeavors. We thank Dan for his years of excellent service to TAC, and for doing so much to get TAC to where it is today, and are glad that he will remain associated with TAC as its editor-at-large.

TAC could hardly be more fortunate than to have Bob Merry take the editorial reins. Bob is the former editor of The National Interest and former CEO and executive editor of the Congressional Quarterly. He has been a Washington correspondent for The Wall Street Journal and has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and National Review, among many other periodicals. Bob has appeared on Meet the Press, Face the Nation, Newsmakers, and a number of other programs. His books include Sands of Empire: Missionary Zeal, American Foreign Policy, and the Hazards of Global Ambition; Taking on the World: Joseph and Stewart Alsop, Guardians of the American Century; Where They Stand: The American Presidents in the Eyes of Voters and Historians; and A Country of Vast Designs: James K. Polk, the Mexican War and the Conquest of the American Continent. He is currently finishing a biography of William McKinley, which will be published by Simon & Schuster.

TAC’s influence and base of support have both grown substantially in recent years. The present political-cultural moment provides an opportunity for TAC to make an even greater impact on the public conversation. “Ideas over Ideology, Principles over Party” will remain our motto as we continue to contend for a more patriotic and restrained foreign policy, and to provide a voice for a more humane, realist, Burkean conservativism.

…read more

Via:: American Conservative


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