Thursday, February 2, 2012

Culture and Urban Revitalization: A Harvest Document

by Mark J. Stern and Susan C. Seifert

Advocates have long argued that the economic benefits of the arts and culture provide a firm rationale for public support. Recent scholarship on the “creative class” and “creative economy” is simply the latest effort to link cultural expression to community prosperity. In contrast, the social benefits of cultural engagement have received relatively little attention, even though—as we shall see—they provide a stronger case.
We need to avoid a simplistic either-or choice between the economic and social impacts of the arts. People who live in our cities, suburbs, and countryside are simultaneously consumers, workers, residents, citizens, and participants. Culture’s role in promoting community capacity and civic engagement is central to its potential for generating vital cultural districts. To separate the economic and the social impacts of the arts makes each more difficult to understand.
This document provides an overview of the state-of-the-art literature on culture and urban revitalization. In Part 2, we place the creative sector in contemporary context with a discussion of three social dynamics. The “new urban reality” has restructured our cities by increasing social diversity—fueled by new residential patterns, the emergence of young adult districts, and immigration; expanding economic inequality; and changing urban form. Shifts in the economic and political environment have changed the structure of the creative sector. Finally, the changing balance of government, nonprofit, and for-profit institutions in social policy development—the shift to transactional policymaking— has profound implications for cultural policy and the creative sector broadly defined. These three forces—the new urban reality, the changing structure of the creative sector, and the emergence of transactional policy-making—define the context within which culture-based revitalization takes place.
Part 3 turns to the major dimensions of current literature on culture-based urban revitalization: the promise of the creative economy; culture’s role in building community capacity; and the negative consequences of culture-based development. Part 4 uses the critical synthesis afforded by our review of the creative economy and community building literature to propose a new model of a neighborhood-based creative economy. Part 5 concludes with a reflection on research gaps as well as the implications of the literature for community development policy and practice. Here we postulate that U.S. cities have the potential to regenerate urban neighborhoods through culture-based strategies that combine wealth-creation and social justice—but only by digesting the lessons of past experience.
The two literatures on culture-based development—economic revitalization and community building—have generally evolved along separate paths with relatively little interaction. By contrast, the European discussion of culture and revitalization has been characterized by intense efforts to integrate these two dimensions. Motivated by “third way” social policies—which try to link a neo-liberal emphasis on productivity and competitiveness with a social concern about exclusion—Great Britain under New Labour has invested in “social regeneration” schemes precisely because they promise both economic growth and social integration. As a result of this political commitment, British policy-makers have devoted considerably more effort than their American counterparts to developing theories of arts-based redevelopment, methods for assessing its effectiveness, and design criteria for practitioners.
One lesson of the European experience that resonates with that of the United States is a preoccupation with gentrification and displacement. There is a widespread perception on both sides of the Atlantic that artists serve as the opening wedge of real-estate speculation and neighborhood destruction. Thus, although the case for the effectiveness of culture-based development is far from airtight, the possibility of residential dislocation poses the greatest barrier to its wider acceptance.

more about revitalization:

Shrinking Cities: The Forgetting Machine

It's a Big Week for the Ft. McPherson Redevelopment Project

Partnership, Collaborative Planning and Urban Regeneration


Revitalization of Urban Areas through Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) – Trends and Expectations for Shrinking Cities

How Brownfield Redevelopment Reduces Pollution

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