by Emily Hopkins for The Conversation
London, New York, Tokyo, Paris and Hong Kong – these famous cities dominate the world economy and are home to millions of people, as well as internationally renown arts, culture and educational institutions.
But they are hardly representative of the rest of the world’s cities. While 54% of the global population lives in cities, around half of those live in cities that have 500,000 inhabitants or fewer.
These “ordinary” cities can be overlooked by politicians, investors, researchers and big businesses. But they are dynamic places with many layers of social, cultural and economic significance. After experiencing a period of post-industrial decline, many such cities are looking to change their fortunes, through urban regeneration programs.
But that doesn’t mean they have to follow the same path as other urban areas. In fact, my research into urban development has found that ordinary cities can avoid some of the ill-effects of regeneration, by embracing what makes them unique.
The creative city
At the turn of the century, city leaders became increasingly fixated on the idea of the “creative city”, championed by academics-turned-advisers including Richard Florida and Charles Landry. The idea was to encourage a “creative class” of talented workers to make their homes and businesses in cities, by creating urban spaces that are open, inclusive and diverse, as well as attractive and technologically advanced.
“Regeneration” became a buzzword associated with these types of strategies, which seek to repurpose seemingly disused or rundown spaces to support an economy led by creative and technological industries. The apparent success of creative city policies was seen in post-industrial centers such as Detroit, US, following investments in cultural, artistic and musical urban renewal.
Such policies swiftly became the go-to strategy for seemingly “ordinary” post-industrial cities around the world, even resulting in new rankings that pit cities against each other, based on criteria including entrepreneurship, urban leadership and “livability”. Having plenty of former industrial spaces that can be adapted for new uses, and a desire to be noticed on the national or global stage, encourages investment in urban regeneration from both public and private sources.
Yet regeneration programs inspired by the creative city agenda can cause problems. Property developers and foreign investors have recognized the economic potential of real estate in “creative” cities. This has led to rocketing land costs, and many low-income residents have felt the effects of being displaced from their homes.
What’s more, creative city policies can lead to similar development techniques being applied to dissimilar places. For example, accusations of “artwashing” are now common in cities across the world, as authorities or developers commission artists and cultural institutions to run creative projects in an area, to help it become more appealing to tourists and young people – sometimes at the expense of those who live there.
But “ordinary” cities can champion their individuality to avoid this fate. Take my home of Coventry, UK, for example: a post-industrial city looking to modernize. Located in the West Midlands, with a population of around 360,000, Coventry will be the third UK City of Culture in 2021 – a title designed to “use culture as a catalyst for economic and social regeneration”.
During my PhD fieldwork there, I’ve investigated how Coventry has drawn on its rich history and culture to resist generic creative city policies. Though the residents I spoke to have not always felt included in regeneration efforts, there is still much to be learned from the city’s approach to urban renewal.
Sent to Coventry
Coventry’s City of Culture bid sought to show how the regeneration program would be local, personal and inclusive of the city’s diversity. And in some ways, it has been successful. As the home of bands including The Specials and The Selecter, Coventry was a launch pad for the anti-racist, two-tone music scene in the 1980s.
The 2Tone taxi project celebrates the ska scene, as well as Coventry’s role in manufacturing London’s iconic black cabs; while touring the city in a taxi, passengers can find out more about the people and places of Coventry, as well as adding their own suggestions for the itinerary.
Another inclusive project which has been part of the lead up to City of Culture 2021 is the Foleshill Mile Map, co-created with local communities to pinpoint the multicultural offerings in one of Coventry’s neighborhoods. Not only does this champion local input through collaborative working, it also reflects Coventry’s identity as one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the UK.
Yet as more cities seek to emphasize their cultural assets, city leaders and policy makers must be aware of the negative impacts that can arise if local residents are not central to the decision-making process. For example, in Lisbon, Portugal, the arrival of the Time Out Market and LX Factory creative village have increased tourism, leading to anti-gentrification protests and even laws being enforced to avoid displacing long-term residents, as rents continue to rise. This highlights the need to consider local contexts and communities before implementing copy cat creative policies.
As witnesses of vast social and cultural change over the past century, Coventrians can offer a new outlook on an often overlooked city, and prove that being “sent to Coventry” need not be a punishment.
Culture-led regeneration processes, such as the UK City of Culture title, can offer opportunities to attract investment and increase the civic pride among citizens. And Coventry shows how other “ordinary” cities can approach urban renewal, with local stories and communities at the heart of the process. But authorities and leaders must be careful to maintain this priority throughout the journey – or risk repeating the same mistakes.
Emily Hopkins is a PhD researcher at Royal Holloway
The Conversation publishes knowledge-based journalism that is responsible, ethical and supported by evidence from academics and researchers in order to inform public debate with facts, clarity and insight into society’s biggest problems.
WeHo Reaches Deal on Log Cabin With City of Beverly Hills
WEST HOLLYWOOD — The City of Beverly Hills and the City of West Hollywood have reached an agreement regarding the property located at 621 N. Robertson Boulevard – also known as the ‘Log Cabin’ site – which is owned by the City of Beverly Hills but is located in the City of West Hollywood.
With an agreement signed this week, the City of West Hollywood will lease the site from Beverly Hills for a period of twelve months and intends to sublease the premises to the West Hollywood Recovery Center, which will continue to provide the same level of addiction recovery services currently offered at the site.
“We are thrilled to be able to secure this space to safeguard vital recovery services. Tens of thousands of people have been helped by the 12-Step meetings offered at the ‘Log Cabin’ and with the addition of the West Hollywood Recovery Center as the lead nonprofit we can count on another four decades of meetings and community recovery,” said West Hollywood Mayor John D’Amico. “These meetings will remain a vital resource for the West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and greater Los Angeles sober community. The City of West Hollywood has been committed to preserving access to services at this addiction recovery space and this lease agreement with our neighbors in the City of Beverly Hills is a testament to working together to address community needs.”
“We are pleased to have reached an agreement with our neighbors in West Hollywood to allow the crucial services at the Log Cabin to continue,” said Beverly Hills Mayor Lester Friedman.
The Lions Club of West Hollywood formerly leased the site, but that agreement is now expired. The City of Beverly Hills provided notice to the Lions Club to vacate the premises by March 31, 2020.
“We sincerely appreciate the work of the Lions Club over many years to support community organizations and provide valuable meeting space,” added Mayor Friedman.
Due to coronavirus (COVID-19) health emergency and Los Angeles County Safer at Home Orders, all meetings have been temporarily suspended at the site due to the need to accommodate social distancing requirements. Community members may check for updates at http://thewhrc.org.
Al & Ed’s Claimed by L.A. Development Firm for Nearly $23M
WEST HOLLYWOOD (Connect California) — A Los Angeles-based real estate development firm purchased a 30,146 square-foot development site in the West Hollywood area for $22.5 million. CBRE’s Matthew Greenberg, Alex Kozakov and Pat Wade represented the seller, a private family that had owned the asset for decades. CBRE’s Chris Tresp represented the buyer.
Located at the intersection of Santa Monica Boulevard and La Cienega Boulevard, the 30,146-square-foot property consist of one of the most recognizable corners in all of Los Angeles. The asset is currently comprised of three commercial structures on several parcels located in both the City of Los Angeles as well as West Hollywood.
The site’s zoning allows for an array of future projects, ranging from mixed-use multifamily to hotel and commercial uses benefiting […]
Hollywood Developing at Quick Pace With Hotels, Housing, Office Space
HOLLYWOOD (Beverly Press) — In many parts of Los Angeles, development seems to be moving at a breakneck pace, and Hollywood is no exception. From hotels and housing units to commercial space for office and retail, the neighborhood has seen significant growth in the past few years, and that trend will continue as projects currently under construction are completed.
Kristopher Larson, president and CEO of the Hollywood Property Owners Alliance, which oversees the Hollywood Business Improvement District, said nearly 1,000 housing units and 934 hotel rooms are currently under construction.
In 2019 alone, nearly 400,000 square feet of office space entered the market and now makes up approximately 10% of all office space in Hollywood, he said.
“A lot of new folks will call Hollywood […]
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This Just In…
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