Wanted: 1,000’s and 1,000’s and 1,000’s of urban-minded, home-renovating, mortgage-paying artists

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The Wall Street Journal covers the luring of artists and the “creative class” to blighted areas of cities such as Cleveland, Detroit and St. Louis. Predictably, the story contains the requisite New York City transfer couple and the “wow, you can buy a home for $1” meme. City officials are now embracing these efforts, but how many thousands of artists would be needed to revitalize more than a couple blocks of Cleveland?

It has yet to be seen if a planned, large-scale development can lure more than just a few new artists to a city and not simply put existing artists in one location. In St. Louis, Washington Avenue and now North Broadway have seen organic artist communities develop over time. Today the 58-acre Chouteau’s Landing development just south of downtown bills itself as “an emerging district for inspired minds,” stating, “(it) will attract savvy entrepreneurs, catalytic artists and intuitive urbanites.”

Relocating artists and $1 homes make for an interesting story, especially in these times, and yet encouraging budding artist communities seems likely to remain a niche solution. The story declares that “artists are filling in some of the neighborhoods being emptied by foreclosures.” How many artists would it take to fill East Cleveland or North St. Louis?

Although I welcome the “creative class” and really anyone moving into the city, I would like to see more substantive stories about sound development decisions and efforts to shift outdated development paradigms. Such changes are what will positively impact where we live for decades to come.


{Powell Square as it sits today in St. Louis, MO}


{an artist inside an abandoned factory in Detroit}

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