When Fun Goes Bad

You take a client to the game. You have a “power lunch.” Work and leisure have long been blurred in the corporate world. And, in the past few decades, they have been blurred by cities as well, in the form of entertainment and cultural districts.

In the 1970s and ‘80s, when middle-class job erosion took hold and urban economic development needed a spark, cities began to act like businesses. By the late 1980s, according to scholar David Harvey, cities became entrepreneurial.  Cities asked their managers to act like ad men, using the clients’ funds (otherwise known as taxpayer dollars) to sell a product (Cleveland, say).  The job of the city manager became, wrote Harvey, to make the city “appear as an innovative, exciting, creative, and safe place to live or to visit, to play and consume in.”

Enter the entertainment district, a concept cities used not only to show off their assets, but also to stir economic development.  In Cleveland we had  the Gateway District of the mid 1990s, created when the city  tried to spark economic development with sports tourism. But success was dependent on a winning team (and then LeBron left).

Read the rest over at Belt Magazine.