Convention Centers Not Living Up to Expectations

In this article from <em>Next American City</em>, Josh Stephens looks at the role convention centers play in cities, the high hopes cities have for them, and the often poor returns they offer.
June 24, 2009, 9am PDT | Nate Berg
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Convention centers may not be the cash cows cities typically think of them as, according to this piece. Attendance at convention centers is on the decline, but cities continue to build them. And despite their appeal as magnets for tourism dollars, the actual returns show that cities haven't been seeing a great benefit from this mega projects.

"The story of convention centers is that, for all cities do to distinguish themselves, the convention industry treats cities not as places but rather as spaces - fungible, interchangeable and characterless. Even though convention centers are marketed with Platonic conceptions of cities (palm trees, skyscrapers, longhorns, slot machines), the convention economy is one of placelessness. 'Most of them have removed themselves from the community they're in by virtue of becoming developments that are about drawing people into the city, not about being integrated in the city culture and fabric,' says Fred Kent, president of the Project for Public Spaces, which advocates for attractive, energized public spaces.

Even so, convention centers might seem tolerably innocuous - they don't pollute (directly), they don't bulldoze historic neighborhoods (usually), and they pay for themselves - except when they don't."

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Published on Tuesday, June 23, 2009 in Next American City
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