Thursday, February 16, 2006

Towards a creative city

Richard Florida's ideas about the creative class, in addition to Joel Garreau's ideas about the so-called edge city, can help city leaders understand Elgin's need to create a credible urban environment, particularly in the downtown. This is perhaps the only route we can take, because Elgin has an urban character. It possesses urban diversity on many fronts: ethnicity, income, employment mix, housing stock, architecture and so on. This diversity, which we value, precludes it from being a "suburb" in the classical sense or a "town." We simply don't have the option of being Geneva. And any strategy that ignores that is bound to fail because the contradictions between the reality and the vision would be unmanageable. Neither do we want to be an industrial backwater, vulnerable to globalization, and requiring us to live in the midst of huge warehouses and factories.

We want a better balance. We want our city to be creative. We want it to have a lively popular culture--not just a fine arts culture. We want it to have industries of the future, not the detritus other cities have discarded in their own quests to move forward. We want Elgin to be resilient and strong. For a time I thought city leaders knew where they wanted to go and were on the right path, but sometimes I'm not so sure. Sometimes I get this feeling that they're like that guy who chooses to accept the quarter today rather than the dollar that would have been his had he waited just another day. If you have a vision--whether for yourself, your organization or your city--you are bound to say no to some things. If you choose the right path, you say no to the left path and everything that belongs to the left path. I don't see the city saying no and that's what worries me. It makes me think that the city is in fact guided by no vision at all.


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