Urban entertainment districts @ Salon.com
You can read a few quotes from myself over at Salon.com in a great piece by Will Doig. Will writes about cities in Salon and has some really stellar pieces (e.g.: Rust Belt chic: Declining Midwest cities make a comeback and Whole Foods is coming? Time to buy).
Here are a few excerpts from the article:
The problem with these created-overnight districts is that you’re trying to create a culture as opposed to letting one grow,” says Nathaniel Hood, a Minneapolis-based transportation planner. “You’re getting the culture that one developer or city council member thinks the city needs, as opposed to the ground-up culture that comes from multiple players.”
“That’s a defeatist choice to have to make, but the monocultures created by urban districting make it almost inevitable. At last week’s 20th annual Congress for the New Urbanism, Hood spoke about the folly that is Kansas City’s Power & Light District, an $850 million entertainment district whose neon signage is as blinding as its eagerness to be hip. But no one would mistake Power & Light for a neighborhood created by cool kids. “Land costs are higher downtown, so you have to create something genuinely unique,” says Hood. “It can’t just be an outdoor mall with slightly cooler bars.”
It’s not just that the developers are boring people — the economics of single-owner districts incentivize blandness. Chain stores and restaurants can afford to pay higher rent, so they get first dibs. To boost rents even higher, tenants are sometimes promised that no competition will be allowed nearby. “Starbucks will be willing to pay the higher rent if [the developer doesn't] let other cafes into the area,” says Hood. And forget about occupying the Power & Light District — you’re on private property. For a full list of the rules (no bicycles, panhandling, profanity on clothing) you can consult its website.
I feel uneasy about self-promotion. Nonetheless, the article at Salon is well-done and I recommend it.