Your Town Might Be Able to Have an Arts Economy, Too

One of the criticisms of efforts to attract the so-called “creative class” is the tendency for the artists and bohemians that prepare the way for tech workers to accumulate in a few trendy places.  This limits the geographic reach of using arts development to foster other kinds of development.  However, in a recent post on New Geography, John Sanphillippo argues that artists and other creative types have been getting priced out of those trendy spots for many years now, and that there are now three types of locations are particularly well-suited to attract arts-related development:

First, for the “traditional” rebel artist who can no longer afford New York, Boston, D.C. or Chicago there’s Buffalo, MetroCleveland, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati. These Rust Belt cities have a fine stock of premium buildings and neighborhoods chock full of 19th century architectural gems and grand public parks and plazas at deeply discounted prices. . . .[Editor’s note:  this true of smaller cities as well as evidenced by places like Oil City PA, a former client of ours.]

Second, there are thousands of depopulated rural villages that exist everywhere in America once you escape the economic forcefields of pricey metroplexes. Key West, Sedona, Provincetown, Carmel, New Hope, and Rehobeth have all been bought up and Disneyfied by now. But there are an unlimited number of small towns and villages that have similar qualities at an infinitely lower price point. . . .

Third, and in my opinion the most viable and likely scenario, involves the reinvigoration of failed suburban districts. When I look around at the desolate commercial strip corridors (pick a crappy suburb… any crappy suburb anywhere from the outskirts of Charlotte to the damp underbelly of Seattle) I can imagine the new “arts districts” of the future. Dead suburban retail buildings and their associated parking lots are the current equivalent of abandoned industrial warehouses or cheap seventh floor walk up apartments. These properties and locations are most ripe for transformation over time. My guess is that most of the action early on will not be out front facing the highway, but in back behind the semi-abandoned muffler shops, defunct carpet emporiums, and burned out supermarkets.

The full story is here.


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