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. A Lesson from Seven Cities

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St. Louis

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Baltimore's revitalization is one of the most impressive models in the nation. It was spurred in the 1950s by a declining commercial base and the dwindling economic might of its historic Inner Harbor. Thirty years and millions in public and private dollars later, downtown Baltimore annually attracts 5 million tourists and convention visitors and 5 million art patrons. Baltimore succeeded by enlisting help from diverse entities: community leaders and stakeholders such as Charles Center/Inner Harbor Management, a market-oriented approach, public support, and emphasis on connecting people to activities. With its renaissance in full swing, the focus is now on increasing art and cultural offerings. A number of new cultural and entertainment destinations are being planned and developed around the Inner Harbor and the existing arts facilities at Mt. Royal Avenue. There also is renewed interest in using art and culture as a means of revitalizing a once prominent retail corridor known as Howard Street into the "Avenue of the Arts." The goal is to add new cultural facilities and strengthen existing ones.


Since the mid-1980s, Cleveland has transformed from the "Mistake on the Lake" to the Midwest's "Cinderella City." A business and government partnership called Cleveland Tomorrow, with an initial $50 million development fund, launched a big-ticket development strategy that achieved extraordinary success, including the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and a six-acre district of restored theaters called Playhouse Square. The regeneration of the theater district has played an important role in the larger revival of downtown Cleveland. Noteworthy in Cleveland's success: valuing historical structures (rebuilding versus tearing down), leaders defining and maintaining a vision, establishing relationships between arts and real estate groups that develop mixed use for day and night. Forming connections between Playhouse Square and nearby shopping and entertainment has been slow because venues are still opening. But mixing uses to form a comprehensive destination is the goal. Playhouse district management has diversified its tasks to include a retail store and ticket business.


When Dallas blended municipal leadership with the needs of arts organizations, it created the foundation of a strong cultural district. Today's 17-block, 62-acre Dallas Arts District combines three major arts facilities, an outdoor performance space, a parking garage, an office center and a handful of historic structures into one downtown location. Key to its success was a decision in the 1970s to cluster arts facilities in an urban setting. The thinking, as valid today as it was then, balanced commercial daytime use with leisure and night time activities creating a tourist attraction in itself. Unlike other examples in the study of seven cities, Dallas' city government spearheaded the concept of an arts district. Public investment soon followed with a $24.8 million bond. Importance was placed on making the physical environment as appealing as possible. For its efforts, Dallas today boasts such attractions as a new wing of the Dallas Museum of Art, the Arts District Theater and the Meyerson Symphony Center.


Downtown Denver's startling regeneration in the past decade had simmered for years. Its current revival is based not on a single strategy or activity, but on a variety of mutually supportive resources and cultural venues. Virtually any activity downtown, be it sports, arts, culture or entertainment, is within walking distance, light rail or quick shuttle of each other. That strength of proximity has created a mixed use environment that sizzles day and night, and is augmented by explosive growth in its residential base. Downtown has benefitted from significant public and private investment in such things as Coors Field baseball stadium, the Central Library, Denver Art Museum renovation, light rail through downtown and Elitch Gardens amusement park. The public also has devoted resources to improve the Denver Performing Arts Complex, the jewel of Denver's cultural scene comprised of several small stages, a symphony hall and an impressive theater for the ballet, regional theater and Broadway style productions. Also wildly popular is Lower Downtown, anchored by Coors Field stadium. The investments have yielded a downtown that serves as a vibrant center for business, culture and entertainment. A 1986 "Downtown Area Plan" developed by the city and Downtown Denver Partnership, serves as a blueprint for Denver's development. The plan is marked by consensus as to how Denver should evolve, and has been bolstered by a supportive public policy environment. One particularly successful public policy initiative is the Scientific and Cultural Operating Facilities District (SCFD), which dedicates nearly $30 million a year to some 200 arts a six-county district established by voters in 1988 and reauthorized in 1994 to provide financial support (through one-tenth of a cent sales tax) to regional cultural facilities and organizations.


Downtown Phoenix is evolving from a one-dimensional business center into a diverse hub of art, culture and entertainment. The evolution began nearly a decade ago with the strategy to locate several anchor projects within walking distance of downtown's core. The idea was to dramatically improve the environment that connects the projects. This "layering effect" draws people and extends the time and money they spend. Today the tactic has paid off with such facilities as Herberger Theater Center, Orpheum Theater, Symphony Hall and the Phoenix Museum of History. Combined with other improvements, downtown Phoenix has transformed from a lifeless collection of office buildings and parking lots into an active urban environment. Total capital investments top $2 billion (including a major league ballpark and basketball arena). From 1990 to 1997, downtown revenues shot up 77 percent. Responsibility for overall management, marketing, services and economic development rests with The Downtown Phoenix Partnership, an association of property owners and downtown stakeholders.


The cultural renaissance of the city once known as industrial center proves, in the words of one Pittsburgh Cultural Trust president, "Highly focused partnerships between public and private organizations can cause dynamic changes." Pittsburgh's 14-block cultural district indeed illustrates what happens when government, business, foundations and the arts community align to strengthen both the arts and the economy. Crucial to shepherding the cultural district was the Howard Heinz Endowment, which provided ongoing vision, leadership and financial resources. Enlisted in turn were local government, private corporations and the Urban Renewal Authority. The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust was formed in 1984 to institutionalize the leadership begun by the Heinz Endowment and continues to manage it today with an $11 million operating budget. From 1984 to 1994, $211 million was invested in the cultural district. In about that same time, attendance has more than doubled from 500,000 visitors annually to 1.1 million.

St. Louis:

In the 1960s, the once-famous theater district which earned St. Louis the nickname "Broadway of the Midwest" was in disrepair. Small renovation efforts could not save the area. So in the mid-1980s a redevelopment plan began to revive the Grand Center. Today Grand Center, Inc. manages the district, which includes The Fox Theater, The Powell Symphony Hall, The Sheldon Concert Hall and The Grande Square Theater. The successful revitalization of Grand Center is noteworthy less for its impact on downtown, because it lies about two miles from the core, and more for its impact on the immediate area. Redevelopment focused equally on theaters and the surrounding neighborhood known as Grand Avenue. Leaders looked for ways to build on the presence of the arts, thereby increasing opportunities for local residents and businesses. In turn, the area supports the growth of its arts and performance venues. Also significant is ongoing business involvement in restoration efforts, including support from Civic Progress, an organization of business leaders committed to revitalization of St. Louis.

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