Scarcity leads to creativity out of necessity. That’s the pop culture meme at least. Think “starving artist,” or the survivors in Survivor. The thinking has penetrated the business culture as well. For example, in the shadow of the 2008 recession, Google founder Sergey Brin, in a letter to his shareholders, writes: “I am optimistic about the future, because I believe scarcity breeds clarity: it focuses minds, forcing people to think creatively and rise to the challenge.” read more »
What do you do when you’re a post-industrial city fallen on hard times? There’s a sort of default answer in the marketplace that I’ll call for want of a better term the “Standard Model.” The Standard Model more or less tells cities to try to be more like Portland. That is, focus on things like local food, bicycles, public transit, the arts, New Urbanist type real estate development, upscale shopping, microbreweries, coffee shops, etc., etc. The idea seems to be that the Rust Belt city model is a failure and should be chucked in favor of something better. In this model the publicly subsidized real estate project is the preferred economic development strategy. read more »
Over four decades, the Great Lakes states have been the sad sack of American geography. This perception has been reinforced by Detroit’s bankruptcy filing and the descent of Chicago, the region’s poster child for gentrification, toward insolvency. read more »
Many people hate the term “Rust Belt”. They dislike the aesthetics of the Rust Belt. For others, the term is less loaded, but rather a moniker denoting who we are. Consider me in the latter camp. But I often cross paths with those who loathe the term, or more exactly any notion of there being a Rust Belt culture. read more »
There are interesting developments being played out in the Rust Belt. Some cities, like Detroit, seem to be embarking whole hog down the creative class path. Others, like Pittsburgh, have their own thing going on, a thing loosely delineated as the “Rust Belt Chic” model of economic development, with no modest amount of success. How a given Rust Belt city reinvests will have a large say in its future. read more »
The Ohio suburb of East Cleveland abuts the core city to its west and north, and in terms of physical appearance the boundary between the two is indistinct. A century ago, the City of Cleveland unsuccessfully attempted to annex East Cleveland on two occasions. These days, Cleveland is unlikely to perceive its eastern neighbor as much of a catch. East Cleveland fell on hard times during the deindustrialization that took place throughout the Cuyahoga Valley: since 1970, it has lost more than half of its population. Nearly 40% of the 2010 population falls below the poverty level. read more »
“[T]he most obvious, ubiquitous, important realities are often the ones that are the hardest to see and talk about.” Writer David Foster Wallace
The story of the three Cleveland women kidnapped over 10 years ago and recently found alive in a house on the city’s Near West Side has captivated the national imagination. There is the miracle aspect from the fact that such situations rarely end this way. read more »
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson’s recent comment about immigration has drawn some local ire. At his annual remarks on the state of the city, the Mayor—in response to a question of how Cleveland can end its population decline by attracting immigrants—stated: “I believe in taking care of your own”.
To be fair, the Mayor contextualized the statement by inferring that the best attraction strategy is to build a city that works for those who reside in it. In some respects I agree. In fact America attracts immigrants not because of “attraction strategies”, but because it offers the prospects of a better quality of life. So, if a city can nail that down, well, that is a hell of a pull. read more »
"Memento Mori" – "Remember your mortality" – was whispered into the ears of Roman generals as they celebrated their great military triumphs. Someone should be whispering something similar in the ear of Gov. Jerry Brown, who has been quick to celebrate his tax and budget "triumph" and to denounce as "declinists" those who threaten to rain on the gubernatorial parade. read more »
“Indeed, we have the know-how, but we do not have the know-why, nor the know-what-for”—Erich Fromm, social psychologist.
The question of how you “become” as a city has been weighing on me lately. Is it enough to get people back into the emptiness? Is it enough to pretty the derelict? I mean, is the trajectory of Cleveland’s success simply a collection of micro-everythings, start-ups, and occupancy rates? That is, is Cleveland’s reward simply the benefit of being creatively classed? read more »