Hip to be (Harrison) Square

September 13, 2007 at 3:07 pm 5 comments

This is a repost from Jon Swerens’ blog.

Is a city-supported downtown baseball stadium and retail complex a good idea for Fort Wayne? Discussion about the proposed Harrison Square may be a moot point, with papers being drawn up and demolition in full swing, but still, the sides remain at loggerheads.

Opponents have been painted as cranky old conservatives. Supporters are portrayed as young optimistic professionals.

But the youngsters have a seemingly unlikely opponent in Richard Florida.

Florida is a professor at Carnegie Mellon University and the author of “The Rise of the Creative Class,” a best-selling book that studies the 38 million Americans he calls creatives: artists, scientists, musicians, architects and other such people. If anyone is in favor of attracting young creative professionals to cities, it’d be Prof Florida.

In his book, he’s critical of most cities’ efforts:

It’s not that these cities do not want to grow or encourage high-tech industries. In most cases, their leaders are doing everything they think they can to spur innovation and high-tech growth. But most of the time, they either can’t or won’t do the things required to create an environment or habitat that is attractive to the Creative Class.

Sounds like something any young creative person in Fort Wayne might say. But then Florida goes in a somewhat unexpected direction:

They pay lip service to the need to attract talent, but continue to pour resources into underwriting big-box retailers, subsidizing downtown malls, recruiting call centers and squandering precious taxpayer dollars on extravagant stadium complexes. (emphasis mine)


The most recent studies show that stadiums do not generate economic wealth and actually reduce local incomes.

Now, before I get flamed in the comments, I realize the differences in Harrison Square’s tax structure and private investment. But we can set that aside, because one big argument for building this stadium is supposed to be to attract and retain the young professional.

Florida begs to differ:

Not once during any of my focus groups and interviews did any member of the Creative Class mention professional sports as playing a role of any sort in their choice of where to live and work.

So why try to build stadiums?

The answer is simple. These cities are stuck in the past.

So Florida may very well call Harrison Square a step into the past, not the future.

I hope for great success for Harrison Square, despite Florida’s gloominess. But it is disingenous of Harrison Square supporters to be so cocky and dismissive of opponents as old stuck-in-the-muds. The very inventor of the term “creative class” may be the biggest critic of all.

— Jon Swerens 


Entry filed under: Architecture, Culture, Harrison Square, Jon Swerens.

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  • 1. IndyChristian  |  September 16, 2007 at 3:31 pm

    Glad to find your blog re ‘cityreaching’ (as we tend to call it). [You’d see more at CityReaching.org.]

    I’ve followed some of the work of Richard Florida, and would caution you to beware his agenda… and those who thrive on (some of) his stats. Here in Indy, for instance, a major 2004 headline implied that jobs are at stake of ‘diversity’ (which Florida defines using at least one metric of gayness). Yet the IndyStar article failed to go on to mention that in fact, Indianapolis has successfully defied the correlative odds. Fact is, we ranked well, despite not being gay enough.

    In any event… I’m glad to have come across your city-focused site. Be sure and check out the Ft. Wayne page at CityReaching. Maybe even come join the Facebook group specifically for the “City Reaching Movement”… to connect & communicate.

    Blessings from Indy.

  • 2. Craig Ladwig  |  September 26, 2007 at 12:56 pm

    A well-reasoned and insightful commentary. You might have added that the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, on everybody’s Old Fogey list, has been saying exactly that for 10 years (beginning when we were Young Fogeys). At one point we filled an entire issue of our quarterly journal with peer-reviewed citations on the economic futility of sports stadiums. Good luck with the blog. One of our adjunct scholars from I.U., Dr. Eric Schansberg, would seem to be a particularly fitting asset. He is the author of “Neither to the Left nor the Right: A Thinking Christians Guide to Public Policy.”

  • 3. fairplaybeach  |  September 26, 2007 at 10:15 pm

    Nice read. We need more make-it-happen-on-their-own-kind of people in Fort Wayne. I would like to meet those people and I may be very interested in the types of goods, services and ideas that have to offer. That’s where Fort Wayne needs to “step to the plate”.

  • 4. John B. Kalb  |  September 27, 2007 at 8:58 pm

    Jon & Scott: I assume that “The Rise of the Creative Class” is a recent publication. Thanks for this post – I am looking for this book at the library – It sure sounds like we can use his knowledge to support our claim that the wanton destruction of Memorial Stadium is counter-productive to any attempt to renew our downtown area. In addition, the leveling of all the homes on McClellen Street is bittersweet when viewed through the 1970’s camera of two Elmhurst graduates (the Turnley brothers) in their photo book coming out next week.
    I am looking forward to routine reading of your new blog and asking our Lord to bless your work on “the good city”. John B. Kalb

  • 5. Josh  |  July 24, 2008 at 11:04 am

    I am in this class of people they call the “Creative Class” I was never asked why I choose a certain city to live and work. I would have told them that yes indeed pro sports and nice comfortable stadiums do attract the young Creative Class people, we need something fun to do. And yes these facilities need to be downtown not off in the suburbs or in any nook and cranny of the city. They need to be where we want to be, and that is downtown. Have you ever asked why kids from Fort Wayne want to live and work in Chicago, Indy, Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Louisville, Atlanta or even Chattanooga, TN. Its because they have vibrant downtowns, they have restaurants, clubs, stadiums, arenas, and most importantly they have housing in the way of Downtown Condos. My age group is the 18 to 35 year age group but more important than that is that I am a 26 year old male with a Bachelors of Fine Arts in the concentration of Visual Communications I am part of the rising Creative Class. But I must say again that I was never asked what attracts me to a given city. I grew up in Fort Wayne, I went to college in Chicago and now I work, live and play in Downtown Atlanta. I work in an office of young professionals that enjoy downtown activities. Hell August 16th some coworkers of mine and myself are going to go to the Colts game in Atlanta, because it’s fun and we have the money to blow. And that is what Fort Wayne needs is an outlet of young professionals to blow there money. And currently Fort Wayne has very little to attract it’s young pros back to the city. The condo’s and ballpark in a start. I love the Coliseum as much as anybody but they should have built a new arena downtown. Because again that is where young pros want to spend time. When I went to college in Chicago I went to a Cubs game and night and was astounded by the amount of people that filled the bars and restaurants after the game, I can remember thinking that, that could work in Fort Wayne given the correct location which is only Downtown location because that is where you walk, you have to pass by the bars and restaurants before you get to your car. And that is the chance that the bars and restaurants need to get you in the door. At the current location name one restaurant or bar you have to walk past to get to your car? But this is just one young professionals point of view.

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But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. Jeremiah 29:7

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