Taking the Fun out of Entertainment Districts

Using Omaha's Old Market neighborhood as an example, Nathaniel M. Hood calls for an end to the urban "Entertainment District" - the common revitalization tool that produces a "single-use monoculture" that alienates families and baby boomers.
March 18, 2013, 9am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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"While originally having many diverse purposes, the Old Market neighborhood now is mainly articulated around one function: entertainment (and the odd antique shop)," bemoans Hood. "This would be tolerable if Omaha had other similar neighborhoods. They don’t – and neither do most American cities. That is precisely why we can’t be surrendering our best places over exclusively to entertainment."

For Hood, the problem with such "adult theme parks" is that they "[lack] one crucial element: people. Since entertainment is more or less modern code-speak for food and drink. [sic], it means that if it isn’t a weekend, these places are silent. For a place to be successful, it needs people. All types of people – not just 25 year old’s on a Friday or Saturday night out."

"This policy needs to shift from making cities places to visit, and concentrate on making them places to live. Entertainment districts, even the best ones, can fail at creating a lively mix of retail, residential, commercial and civic space," he argues. "In fact, show me an existing or proposed entertainment district and I’ll show you a struggling city. Yet, we still continuously encourage entertainment as a revitalization tool."

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Published on Wednesday, March 13, 2013 in Strong Towns
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