Someone once said Mobile is the "city of perpetual potential." Favored with so many great features -- mild climate, spectacular Mobile Bay at the mouth of the magnificent Tensaw watershed, a 250-year-old history, gorgeous historical districts -- it seems to be determined to shoot itself in the foot. Like so many cities, it cut out its heart in the 60s-70s by tearing down its oldest neigborhoods to build freeways, cut itself off from its waterfront, allowed ghastly strip development to suck all the commercial vitality of the city core, squandered money on spectacular boondoggles, and finished it off with white flight that has reduced the tax base and created racial tensions. Nonetheless, there is hope. As more and more people get sick of the sprawl along Airport and remember the days of leafy parks and small shops downtown, restaurants and bars are reopening all along this once lovely street. Slowly but surely, long-abandoned buildings are being renovated and turned into classy offices, residences and retail stores. And the lovely parks are still there. With an influx of European sensibilities accompanying the much-anticipated arrival of AirBus, perhaps that potential will finally be realized with the implementation of the ambitious but exciting downtown redevelopment plan that was drawn up some years ago. We can always hope.