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Frank Gray

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Downtown promoter sees results if not cash

The snow is piled deep along Jefferson Boulevard where it passes Parkview Field and The Harrison, the new four-story building that houses businesses and apartments.

It’s the kind of place people are likely waiting to come to a more vibrant life when it warms up in another couple of months. The TinCaps, for example, started selling tickets to this season’s games on Thursday. People are ready.

In other words, life has firmly taken a foothold, and life is good.

There are plenty of stories, though, about exactly how difficult it was to get the long-delayed plans for the block to take root.

It’s a story of buildings that didn’t get built, plans that had to be scrapped, companies that folded, and new dreams that emerged, not to be completed for four years.

And there are the stories of the people who championed the project all along, got shorted in the process, but still look at what’s been accomplished and manage to feel good about it.

Among those is a company called One Lucky Guitar, a professional services company that has been behind the efforts to develop that part of downtown for years.

Last month, it put up a post on its Facebook page, telling a story it called Another Side of the Harrison.

In the post, which has garnered its share of attention, owner Matt Kelley writes about his company’s involvement in the project going back to 2008.

I called Kelley to ask him about the post, which is a lengthy one. He said he appreciated my reaching out to him but said he’d prefer to let the post speak for itself.

Indeed, the post speaks. It’s not confusing. It chronicles more than five years of effort, support, cheerleading and promotion his company engaged in to make the project as successful as possible.

His company spent scores of hours designing websites. It went all out, he said, avoiding dry language and instead trying to make the project as exciting as possible.

Instead of using standard website applications, it animated parts of the website and spiced up staid architectural renderings.

It hired a commercial photographer to show the downtown in a new light and hired a strategist to help the company stay on top of all the developments.

It even designed logos for different names for the project.

In all, the company spent scores more hours on its work than it had estimated it would take, but no one complained.

And the company’s work caught people’s eye, and that led to more work related to the project.

And then the recession hit. Deadline after deadline was missed. It became clear that the original plans were untenable, and the company originally involved in the project folded.

But One Lucky Guitar hung in there. New plans were drawn up for the project, and the company, which hadn’t been paid a cent for its work, was asked to do more work, and it did.

It has been five years since One Lucky Guitar first got involved in the whole thing, and it still hasn’t been paid for most of the early work it performed. Kelley has all but given up hope of ever getting paid.

But he’s got an attitude that some would call strange.

Today, he can walk out of his downtown offices, travel a handful of blocks and see the completed project. He can see the logos he designed but never got paid for. He can see the apartments he helped promote.

And he feels good about it.

Most curious, he says that if his company ever got paid for the work it did, he’d throw a party, and he’d throw it downtown, and he’d bring in his favorite band, a band from Australia.

There’s a guy who really wants to see the downtown efforts succeed.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.

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