Marsupial Urbanism

15 thoughts on “Marsupial Urbanism”

  1. “a consortium of hospitals that created a $30 million pool of seed money to redevelop the area”

    Am I the only person to find this odd, that a consortium of hospitals are involved in redevelopment efforts?

    1. Hospitals, universities, large corporations, and private foundations regularly involve themselves in such activities. I used to live in New Brunswick, New Jersey and Johnson & Johnson spent all kinds of money transforming the town over many decades. They were big on urban removal at one point and helped demolition half the historic downtown in order to plant grass. Then the fashion changed and they lead the effort to do infill redevelopment.

  2. “Ironically the remaining businesses in places like this are among the most productive in the city in terms of generating durable employment, retail sales, tax receipts, and an anachronistic kind of social capital anchored around locally rooted mom and pop family enterprises.”

    Cheap real estate allows businesses with low turnover and start ups to survive. Expensive real estate means you need to have high sales off the bat — or a large corporation that can absorb the initial losses.

    So this is where creativity is going to go.

    The problem is governmental, not physical. All the fiscal burdens — including the pension and other debts of those of people who cashed in in the city and moved to the suburbs long ago — are left behind in places like this. Anyone with a few nickels has them taken to pay for those burdens of others. The poor, their costs and problems are dumped there.

    The public safety is so bad you can’t get insurance, the schools are so bad you can add private school to your list of costs. Bloomberg News found a few years ago that living in the city of Detroit was actually expensive despite dirt cheap housing for these reasons.

    The government wrecked these places, and keeps them down, not the market..

    1. There’s a broad human tendency toward knee jerk reactions and scapegoating. Depending on your individual tendencies it’s easy to reverse engineer all blame on to The Government, or The Global Capitalists, or “Them” referring to whichever demographic subgroup is decided to be a problem for society. In the end, there is rarely a single cause to any problem.

      I see our current dilemma as the result of aging institutions. Everything has a beginning, a middle, and an end. No matter how good any system might be they all gradually become brittle, ossified, and dysfunctional over time. And internal inertia makes them impossible to reform. So they fail and are replaced by new institutions. This process plays out every 80 years or so. We’re due…

  3. I worked in such a district. We had the medically-related storefronts selling artificial limbs, orthopedic supplies, and medical uniforms. Tons of doctors’ offices. Also the outpatient surgical and imaging centers. The dialysis center. The rehab/nursing center.

    All of those things generate jobs, taxes, and income. What they do not necessarily generate is “new and shiny”, nor hipster hangouts (books, bikes, bread, and brews) [apologies to Rod S.]. They also do not generate window-shopping or foot traffic…hence the parking lots. (Only once in my life did I walk to a doctor appointment…because my office and my doctor were just blocks away in that district.)

    Medical districts also tend not to generate a lot of restaurants, as the campuses usually have in-house cafeterias and coffee stands buried deep in the bowels of the complexes. Maybe the progressive ones will start putting their foodservice on ground-floor street frontage accessible from outside, taking a lesson from shopping-mall owners who turn dead Sears, Macys, or Penneys wings of malls into outdoor-entry restaurants.

    1. Once I visited a friend at a hospital in San Francisco, where a farmers market was in full swing right outside. Some vendors were selling healthy “fast food” items — it was the best!!

  4. Interesting. Whether it eventually wins or fails, at least it’s trying.
    The old ways are just that – old.
    Time to try something different.

  5. Edge Triangle……..almost looks as if they are trying too hard. Everything cutesy and neo-urban – the bike racks, the streamers, the cafe-style tables and chairs, the paintings of saxophones on warehouse doors of vacant buildings. I kind of get the impression the Bearded Brain Trust thought…..”Hey! all that stuff works in San Francisco!……in Portland!… Denver!…..surely it will work here!”

    I dunno. I tend to think that in some places it’s too far gone – the bones less than even mediocre, the flesh far too saggy. Far too much has been bulldozed over the past 60 or so years. They passed the tipping point long ago and there’s no putting humpty dumpty back. Downtown LA’s historic business district – Spring Street, Broadway – has a enjoyed a renaissance of late by sheer luck, or fate, or whathaveyou. When they put up the skyscrapers of New Bunker Hill beginning in the 60s and 70s, everyone rushed over so fast they forgot to demolish the buildings they left behind, where they just sat for close to 40 years until interest picked up in the past decade or two.

    I happened to notice I did not spot a single human being in any of the pics of the Hipster Triangle. By design, or time of day, or was that lack of foot traffic still pretty standard?

    And this: “… Pound for pound the crappy auto repair shops and light manufacturing businesses pull more economic weight than the shiniest silver bullet projects dreamed up by the economic development wizards…”

    That should be chiseled in granite. How is it that the wizards do not see this? They may be scruffy, but stuff like this is what keeps these neighborhoods alive. I guess Shiny looks better in brochures. If they funneled even half the money they earmark for the Shiny towards the local guys who own the muffler shops……..ahh well…..what are you gonna do?

    1. Shiny is like the new girl up the block – extremely attractive, until you get to know her better. And the old and nearly worn out is to be venerated like Grandma, if possible, so as to ‘preserve the history’. But the scruffy, mediocre stuff is too ugly and must be shunned and/or removed lest it continue to visually pollute the neighborhood in spite of its continued low-cost usefulness. (From the Urban Planner Creed)

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