The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

27 January 2005

Conventional wisdom

Last week, Michael Bates, citing this Brookings Institution report, said that convention centers aren't a cure-all for a city's ills:

It's a declining industry, but cities persist in believing that convention centers will bring a return on investment. They don't.

Tom at Undercaffeinated notes that this is no less true in his home town:

If the underlying assumption that 400,000 people will visit the convention center every year is true, then of course putting the [proposed new] convention center on the water is a good idea. The problem is, there is no way 350,000 more people will be having their conventions in Buffalo. The city has a horrible reputation, there is a glut of convention space around the country (since every city thinks building a convention center is the answer to all their woes), and the lakefront is windy and cold most of the year. The assumption is wrong — common sense proves it wrong.

So what's it going to take?

No one is magically appearing in Buffalo until Buffalo rebuilds itself for itself. As we begin to migrate back to downtown, as downtown businesses and restaurants and bars and shops reappear to serve the new migrants, as the city's reputation slowly changes from cold, snowy, dead, depressed and boring to cold, snowy, lively, and historically significant, people will suddenly appear.

Not everyone in Tulsa has caught on to this, suggests Michael Bates:

[A]t the TulsaNow annual meeting, an urban planner commented that Tulsa's leaders seem to think that it's enough for downtown that we're building the arena, and no one is thinking about how Denver Avenue will develop, or what kind of development is needed to connect the arena to the Blue Dome district and the Brady district.

We're still playing it by ear in Oklahoma City, but I think we're (mostly) on the right track. As Tom says of his northern outpost:

It sounds corny, but before anyone else will love Buffalo, we Buffalonians must first love it ourselves.

Tulsa, that's your cue.

Posted at 6:34 AM to Soonerland

TrackBack: 10:21 AM, 27 January 2005
» Real city revitalization cannot begin with tourism from Undercaffeinated
Through Dustbury I found this Brookings Institution study that busts open the myth that building convention centers is the way to save a city. Every major convention center city is losing business while total convention center space is booming. If......[read more]