Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Elgin's unnatural approach to downtown revitalization

Drawn by affordable rents, layers of history and quirky architecture that lends itself to eye-catching show space, art dealers are increasingly opening galleries on the South and Near West Sides, clustering into art districts and tapping the disposable income flowing into gentrifying neighborhoods.

Like the artists before them, many of the gallery owners are urban pioneers who arrived before a wave of residential construction and have helped breathe new life into decaying neighborhoods. Others set up shop later, attracted by what they described as the "raw energy" of an up-and-coming area...

The pattern itself is not new: Artists move into a down-and-out area, spark a cultural revival and are joined by galleries, restaurants, cafes, newcomers and niche shops. Real estate prices soar, and artists, even art dealers, are pushed out. They then migrate to areas with skimpier rents. (source: Chicago Tribune 4/7/06)
It's a good reminder of how things normally work and shows how unnatural, expensive and risky Elgin's approach to downtown redevelopment is. Will it work?

Beats me. But there are ways for us to reduce the risk. More on that later.


Anonymous Benvolio said...

I could not agree more with this article or your response.

Elgin is actively engaged in what is called "Project Planning" or "Project Plans." They are not driven by community demand so much as they are driven by a few individuals who feel they are necessary. Unfortunately, we all pay for them - sometimes three times. Like the Centre. Taxpayers pay to build it, pay erase its deficit and pay to enter its programs - except for walking.

My point is that if Elgin was a city that embraced unique ideas and small business owners, including eclectic shops, restaurants and art galleries, then something real might happen.

Instead, they infuse the area with projects that cost major dollars and might not work. Then we become a manufactured town, built on studies, but not built on genuine drive or need.

So many creative people are ignored because they don't have the big money or fit into the grand project that is Elgin.

I sure hope it all works. It better. We're all paying for it, whether we like it or not. And could be paying more if it all fails.

3:36 PM  

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