March 20th, 2009 by Marianne McCann
I am one of those saps who bought a plot in Bay City.
When I first heard about the Bay City project, I envisioned a big-city a’la Chicago of the mid century. A destination with a nightlife, fascinating stores and exhibits, you name it. A place were the best and brightest would come together buoyed by the idea of being able to do “thick” builds on double-prim plots. I looked forward exploring this place, finding the cool, funky stores one might find in Lloyd or other sims.
In the real world, I love that whole thing. This kinda retro nostalgia kick for that bygone era. If you look at my store, you can see that in my products. they tend to be toys from my own childhood. Things I had or wished I’d had. Bay City gave me the chance to really do it up, do a mid-century style toy store with all the trimmings, the perfect neighborhood for such a place. I’d already been eying land in Nova Albion to do such, and knowing there would be a lot of cheap, plentiful double-prim mainland in the midst of a land glut, well, how can I lose?
A lot of that dream died on the first day of the auctions, as the bids went up and up, putting the cost of even modest-size plots into full island region territory. The plots I was interested in went to a land speculator, who them flipped them a couple more times. They now house an empty lot and a burning car, respectively.
I did manage to finally score a plot in the sim I wanted, late in the game. A modest one, bigger than what I looked at before, but with no connecting road and along the void. I spent a lot of time making it look like it might belong in that world I was sold, only to have vacant lots surround me. Right now I’m probably in my best position, neighbor-wise, with a shoe store next door, a vacant lot behind me, and a “park-like” for sale plot across the way.
Yet the people who come to my store — a store featuring toys and novelties for both kids and adults — aren’t encouraged to do much shopping in the area. There isn’t a lot of there there. So much possibility and promise, but such a barrier to entry. Who is going to want to spend L$150,000 for the 1024m plot behind me, knowing that there not exactly going to get traffic from the vacant lot and for-sale land decorated as an Asian temple across the road? There’s little there to draw people to explore, so my customers come and shop, then TP out.
What about those who bought the land to resell it? Well, they seem to either keep the land barren, or put up for sale signs and not much else. Some of them opt to do what some call “grief build,” butting up an unattractive build in the hope that someone will buy it out just to pretty up the area. That might have worked for overpriced 16m plots with spinning ad signs, but not so much here.
Those stores that are there fall into a few categories. While there are a handful of “main stores,” a lot of the locations are “satellite stores,” places that house a “pick of the best” of a merchant, with a pointer to the real store elsewhere. A number of others are little more than collections of “affiliate vendors” set up in an attempt to get at least some return on the investment in the land. There is very little there that is unique to Bay City — my own store included.
There have been other issues as well. While there is a small number of people who are passionate about the area, we’ve also had to deal with a lot of in-fighting that takes us away from doing fun events and instead leaves us worn out simply from running in place. The last few months have seen events for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and now spring scuttled while some force a largely unwanted (and unlikely to be implemented as some desire) issue of self-governance on the city. Morris Vig did a good write up on some of these issues. This also does little to help the area.
In the SL Forums yesterday, Bay City was labeled a FAIL, with people mainly citing the cost, the lack of unique shopping, and the lack of events amongst their reasons for not wanting to shop the area. Really, I can’t fault people for that.
I do wish I could help everyone find the beauty and promise, and see that dream I had when I first opted for land there. I feel there is some to be had. the block of buildings that Barnesworth Anubis & Co did is amazing. Cubey Terra and Akhnetan Grommet’s stores — satellites that they are — are great. There are many other examples. Yet it is all few and far between in a city that had the cards stacked against it from the start, that everyone seems to want to see fail just so they can gloat, and that has been largely populated by people looking for their own personal “get rich quick in SL real estate” scheme.
So it’s a bit frustrating to be a Bay Citizen sometimes, ya know? Those of us who are there really are trying, but we’ve got a rather large stone to roll up the hill. I’ve spent a lot of the evening reflecting on the area and my own involvement, trying to find my own personal spark. So far, I’ve been coming up a little empty.