Cities and their broader economic regions are beginning to recognize once again the importance of creating neighborhoods that can readily attract, develop, and export robust economic activity and offer a high quality of life. These types of considerations are particularly important to regions that historically have been tied to large single industries, whether it is cars (Detroit), steel (Pittsburgh), government (Washington, DC), or military (Hampton Roads). Creative cities that foster a wide variety of industries provide the sort of robustness to changes in the market that regions require. Building creative places, therefore, is of citywide and regional significance to ensure continued economic competitiveness and resilience.
But some confuse building creative places with building cultural, arts-focused districts. While both are equally important, they represent two distinct paths should a creatives-driven urban regeneration strategy be pursued: The Cultural District or the Urban "Workshop."
What does a place that has been invested in look like? It can end up looking a lot like Ohio City, a thriving Investment Ready Place (IRP) in the Near West Side of Cleveland, Ohio. Let’s view Ohio City as a case study of Investment Ready Places. We will use the checklist to show why investment makes sense for this neighborhood and we will document previous investments.
Incremental development is the new [yet not at all new] normal. With slow growth comes different approaches to development, paying for it, priorities, understanding the end user, and identifying those places that are most investment ready given these realities. As difficult–and important–as this new frontier is, it leads us down a road of stronger town building.
Regeneration of our highest-potential neighborhoods and the development of new places out of the same gene pool requires that we flip upside down the debt-fueled models we are all accustomed to operating under. With many communities, builders, and institutions currently over-leveraged and no longer able to convincingly make massive public commitments with speculative returns based on optimistic projections, a different kind of project capitalization is required.
Richard Florida might be the first to tell you that the general interpretation of his Creative Class is too often over simplified. When this happens, artists, skinny jeaners, first adopters, hipsters, super-hipsters, techies, and the like are held up unfairly as an exclusive emergent demographic. But this mischaracterization discredits the majority of people who work at a desk, in the home, on the shop floor, or in the lab rather than the gallery or in the studio. It pits the ordinary worker against an assumed avant-garde elitism in a battle for our urban environments. Rather than being divisive, what Florida describes isn't a class at all but a characteristic; a common innate drive to invent and create that we all share. It is the essential trait of our economies, civilization, and our happiness.
What about our cities enables and sustains this creativity that drives our common livelihood?