When a sign advertising pornography was dismantled Monday in front of a gaudy pink building in Rockwood, a small crowd cheered and passing motorists signaled their approval.
The onlookers' buoyancy was justified by the fact that Rockwood now has one fewer porn shop. But the falling of the porn sign - and the closing of the shop known locally as the 'pink palace' - has significance beyond the scope of a single unwanted business: It's a symbol of changes slowly occurring in Rockwood.
The porn shop is leaving because a community-minded developer purchased the property and plans to revitalize the site for use by a social-service agency. That agency - the Center for Family Success - will provide counseling and other services to help ex-convicts improve their parenting skills.
We understand that, in the eyes of Rockwood residents, trading an adult-video store for an agency that caters to recovering criminals isn't necessarily the definition of gentrification. But we believe such services are needed in a community suffering from an abnormally high crime rate. By helping offenders be better parents, the Center for Family Success can break the cycle of crime and contribute to a safer community.
Just the physical appearance of the site will improve with a new, professionally oriented tenant. A renewed Rockwood needs a better visual appearance. It also needs investment from the public and private sectors - which is happening. And it needs social services in place to help Rockwood residents who want to rebuild their community - and in some cases, their lives.
Our hope is that there will be many more reasons to cheer in Rockwood in the near future as porn shops, strip clubs and payday loan companies are displaced by higher and better uses.