‘Editor’s Notebook’ with Diana Mosher: Should Developers Pay More Attention to the Arts?

The definition and boundaries of art are ever-chan...

The definition and boundaries of art are ever-changing. We might not all agree on what constitutes art—good or otherwise—but most would recognize a thriving neighborhood when we see one. It’s the place that’s bustling with activity and energy, where leasing and occupancy take care of themselves, and urban infill developers are competing for the last remaining opportunities.

According to ArtPlace, a collaboration of national and regional foundations, banks, and federal agencies committed to “accelerating creative placemaking,” the arts are central to creating neighborhoods where people (such as renters) want to be. In other words, having artists live in the vicinity—and having a focus on the arts within a community—can impact the vitality of  the neighborhood and serve as a catalyst in revitalizing older housing stock. The local economy also benefits.

ArtPlace backs up its premise with research. Read about the Vibrancy Indicators devised to help define and measure neighborhood change.

Recently ArtPlace released its list of America’s Top Twelve ArtPlaces. It has identified these communities as the most vibrant and arts-centric based on a look at the largest 44 metropolitan areas in the country.

The Top Twelve ArtPlaces for 2013, listed alphabetically by city, are:

Brooklyn, NY / The intersection of Downtown, Fort Greene, Gowanus, Park Slope and Prospect Heights
Dallas, TX  / The Dallas Arts District, with parts of Deep Ellum and Exposition Park
Los Angeles, CA / Central Hollywood
Miami Beach, FL / South Beach
Milwaukee, WI / East Town and a portion of the Lower East Side
New York, NY / Manhattan Valley
Oakland, CA / Downtown, including Chinatown, Old Oakland, and Jack London Square
Philadelphia, PA / Old City
Portland, OR / The Pearl District and a portion of Downtown
San Francisco, CA / The Mission District
Seattle, WA / The Pike-Pine Corridor
Washington, DC / The intersection of Adams Morgan, U St., and Dupont Circle

ArtPlace’s selection of the top 12 neighborhoods was based on a set of six indicators identified by Impresa Inc., a Portland-based consulting firm specializing in the study of metropolitan economies. Four indicators measure ingredients of vibrancy: the number of retail and service businesses; the percentage of independent businesses; the neighborhood’s Walk Score; and the percentage of workers in creative occupations living in the neighborhood. Two arts-related indicators were also used: the number of arts-related non-profits and the number of arts-related businesses. Neighborhood scores were normalized for family income so that neighborhoods with the highest concentration of income did not skew the results.

According to ArtPlace director Carol Coletta, “These neighborhoods are not just America’s top ArtPlaces. They are some of America’s best neighborhoods. They demonstrate the potency of the arts in making places people value. Real estate investors ought to take note and put creative placemaking to work.”

ArtPlace will be bringing together a select group of developers and “creative placemakers” for a workshop in Aspen, CO co-sponsored with the Urban Land Institute. The goal will be to explore specific ways that creative placemaking can add value to developers’ current and upcoming projects.

Coletta and her team are looking for developers to participate in the workshop now. It will be held in Aspen, CO, September 8-10.  Anyone wanting more information can contact Lyz Crane at lyz@artplaceamerica.org.

Do you agree that the arts can have a positive impact in neighborhood revitalization? Is this a part of your company’s development strategy now or in the future?