Posted tagged ‘the arts’

Resources for Planning and Leadership

June 17, 2010

A couple of outstanding resources have been published recently.  First, “The Ideal Workplace: How to Boost Productivity, Commitment, & Job Satisfaction” from Harvard Business Review OnPoint collects articles and stories from the past 20 years of HBR that should help you and your office circle the wagons as you re-emerge from the downward economic cycle.  Get it here.

Second is a special report from the Financial Times, “The Future of Cities: Regeneration.”  The venerable newspaper offers insights into urban planning and design and pulls no punches.  Topics range from vision to finance and fine arts to transit investment.  Discussions touch on Cairo, London, and New York. 

The first author gives both Charleston and Charlotte food for thought for disparate reasons, stating, “The best cities coexist with their history without destroying or obsessively preserving it (“Building on the Past Gives Hope for Future,” Edwin Heathcote, 19 May 2010).

One of the most architecturally striking cities in the world, Chicago is also stuffed with the kind of solid, everyday structures that allow change and adaptation and this keeps it open to innovation and change in a way other cities envy.  Detroit boasts similar architectural quality, (yet) the centre of Detroit is a tragedy on an awesome scale.  Detroit demonstrates the strange absence of any semblance of universal rules.  Cities are paradoxically robust and delicate, their complex systems infinitely adaptable yet also capable of stalling once prices are high enough.

An expert interviewed for the article “Funding and Social Capital Are Key Factors” (Rod Newing, ibid) “recommends the North Carolina model, where the state government reviews all issues (of municipal derivatives) and is conservative about the amount of debt that can be issued.

A third article will surely challenge practicing and aspiring leaders. “Wanted: A Strong Mayor with Vision to See off Rival Centers” (Rod Newing, ibid) asserts, “The mayor and local city government cannot work in isolation. The city vision cannot be restricted to its historical political boundary, but must encompass surrounding areas and the whole region.

While much of this special report cites a need for and encourages city planning, Newing closes his second article with sobering conclusions from Ged Drugan from Manchester Business School’s executive education center:

The megatrend driving regeneration of cities is our lifestyles, which will dictate both the physical fabric and the way we live within cities.  Lifestyles will drive evolution and regeneration of cities, rather than local government planning.

Find these articles on the Financial Times’ website.

Happy planning!

Main Street Columbia? Why on Earth…?

May 17, 2010

Public and private investment aiming to rejuvenate Main Street has been significant and sustained for years.  For the record, I am pro-Columbia, so, when business took me to the Columbia area last Wednesday, I took advantage of the opportunity to attend an event titled, “Why Are You Here?”

The event, promoted (and organized?) by the state chapter of the Urban Land Institute, explored the question of Main Street’s identity as a fine and performing arts destination.  The impending relocation of the state’s non-profit cinema, the Nickelodeon, to a once-and-future theater very near the Columbia Museum of Art spurred the discussion. (Click here to see the project.)

The event at the former Fox Theatre was poorly attended, but the enthusiasm of speaking panelists representing the arts was not dampened.  The panel discussed topics ranging from Columbia’s status as a music scene to the attraction of Main Street as a place to set up shop. 

The panelists noted that Columbia is a “tertiary” market for cutting-edge music tours.  Among the reasons: events in Columbia do not draw because the city has no critical mass of nightlife and entertainment venues.  Instead, the city is pegged to draw for popular country music acts and has-beens.  (The exception: innovative jazz.  Go figure.)

Business owners noted Main Street’s unique environment as a reason to invest in the location.  They defended their decision in that their distinctive businesses (exclusive eyewear, acoustic music) necessitate distinctive destinations.  For them, Main Street’s mix of historic buildings and high-rises stands apart – a unique place. 

Recognition of Main Street Columbia as a destination throughout the broader community has been a question mark for at least a couple decades.  Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the city does not seem to have an identity as a strong music scene, with a place on the calendar for innovative acts.  If the metropolitan area’s center is not a destination for its own citizens, how can one expect it to be so for outsiders?

But what of the jazz scene on South Main?  The role of Five Points for nightlife, driven by the college crowd, is long-established. Panelists, moreover, noted the Vista’s niche as a visual arts destination (notably, with some adversarial consternation).  Perhaps Main Street can be the missing link that ties the various districts together, each with a distinct role.  Some leadership seems to exist: staff of the City Center Partnership was in attendance.  One speaker noted the recent election of a forward-thinking mayor (Steve Benjamin).  Their challenge: to reform the image of South Carolina’s capital city as a place and a destination.