Monday, December 18, 2006

Bring in the Hipsters Part Two: Reader Responses

Yesterday's post on forcibly relocating hundreds of businesses into Cleveland's downtown generated a lot of feedback. Basically, my idea is to take all those businesses frequented by the ever-elusive "hipster" demographic (and, more broadly speaking, the--ugh!--"creative class") and cluster them all downtown in a single neighborhood. We'll leverage angel funding (anybody got a spare billion bucks for a pet project?) to carry it out. When we're done, we'll have a downtown ready to compete with other major American cities. Admittedly, it's a crazy idea... crazy like a fox!

Anyway, you folks out in the blogosphere apparently have ideas of your own. Given the range of comments the post generated, I think it's worthwhile to respond to your ideas. Without further ado...

  • Anonymous points out that the relocated business may very well fail. I suppose they might. If the business is successful in its current location, that means that there are indeed sufficient numbers of people in sufficient proximity to the business to support it. If you relocate it (such as moving the Beck Center or Cedar-Lee to East 9th and Superior), what would happen to the patrons? I don't know. I drive all over the county these days to get to these institutions. I think that centralizing a lot of these businesses and institutions might strengthen them. It's possible.

  • Audient rightly points out that oftentimes places only qualify as "hip" because they are "off the beaten path." Maybe, but the institutions and businesses I have in mind appeal to the more broadly defined urban hipster demographic, rather than the avant-garde hipsters (think t-shirts with blazers, $9 martinis, and Volkswagens rather than Botswanan indie punk, raw foodists, and art students). But am I really suggesting we deplete the inner- and outer-ring of its viable businesses? No, I'm not. Here's my point: the Cleveland area already has the right mix of businesses and institutions to create a vibrant urban neighborhood. Unfortunately, those businesses and institutions are spread out across the entire county. The result is that there are pockets of coolness (to borrow the phrase), but no concentrations.

  • Tara hits the nail on the head. What would clustering all these awesome businesses accomplish (besides totally screwing over the suburbs?) It could create a truly walkable urban neighborhood in the of the region. Of course, this begs the question: do Clevelanders want a true urban neighborhood? And if they do, do they want it downtown?

  • Christine doubts she would want to go to a giant hipster complex in the center of the city. Well, fair enough. I focused on the hipster demographic in part because urban planners (or at least politicians who pretend to care about urban planning) love to talk about hipness. But she's right: you can't have only martini bars, dance clubs, and the like if you want to sustain a neighborhood. You need a full mix of essential services and discretionary entertainment (groceries, pharmacies, schools, post offices, etc.). Downtown Cleveland certainly lacks many essential services (they finally got a grocery store last year!). If I seem to focus too much on hipster stores, it's because I find myself driving all over the county these days to get to these places, and it's driving me (pun intended) nuts. Are my quasi-hipster consumer patterns unusual for the region? Or are there a few thousand other folks like me who would like to be able to shop for books, eat dinner, watch movies, hang out with friends, and stroll in a public space without having to drive to a unique location for each activity?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about giving hipsters tax credits for living downtown?

12:24 PM  
Anonymous Tara said...

I'd like to see the application process for those credits. One question could be: How many different thick-rimmed glasses/blazer combinations do you currently own? :)

12:49 PM  
Blogger zak822 said...

I have a question. The post talked about having a walking hipster/artists district.

I know this sort of thing is desirable to the urban planning community. But how does the public view this walking thing?

Are people willing to walk instead of drive?

3:28 PM  
Blogger graciesdaddy said...

Stephen - great post on 12/17. Let's start with your definition of downtown. What about the underutilized area just east of downtown, in the East 30th-40th area, north of Midtown (St Clair/Superior)? There's a creative cluster happening down 40th St and also down Superior Ave, and there is cheap real estate available for these "hipsters" to concentrate. Your idea about relocating businesses: YES, these businesses may not want to move NOW, but show them something cool with real promise, give a few pioneers great deals to move, and more will follow. When you can bring "creative-class" businesses in a cluster, then you have the support (demand) that will allow restaurants, shops, galleries to thrive and sustain economic viability. It starts with getting bodies down here to work, then they will play here. But the CBD doesn't have the street-level walkability that is necessary, so you have to go outside of the CBD. Moving 100-150 businesses is not an option, we can make this happen 1 business at a time, but first concentrate on the influential, higher-profile hipster businesses that will turn heads. How to pay for it? Get a developer with the vision, the connections, and the wherewithal to get the ball rolling on a (large) piece of real estate. Most companies will not need financial assistance once this "vibe" is created - they will come here because its cool, and it is a testament to their business models. But to attract artists, I still see financial assistance as necessary (what about Issue 18 money?). What needs to happen in summary: get our hands on a cool, interesting piece of real estate just outside of downtown (CBD), get a couple cool businesses to move here, sell the amenities/savings that exist here compared to Beachwood or Independence, then sell restaurants and other neighborhood retail on the benefit of clustered businesses (bodies), which would then create a street-level presence and a sense of community. When you work there, and can shop/eat there, then it makes sense to live there. Regarding Audient's comment, there can be a net gain because we wouldn't be stealing from the suburbs, but looking at new growth. These restaurant/shop owners would open new locations where the demand is (thinking of City Buddha). Long term, new net growth would accumulate from outside the region once this community is created and thriving. People would want to come here. I agree with Christine in that we need to keep it a bit gritty (no Crocker Park here please). People WANT to get out of their cars and walk around.

12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Um... this is very silly. But let's pretend it's serious.

Why relocate anything? Why not new branches, like City Buddha on Coventry? Why not *gasp* NEW businesses? No shortage of ideas here, ya know. Just a shortage of the kind of vital districts that make new retail worth the risk.

6:38 PM  

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