Paris light the way in revitalizing business districts
aiming to be a world-class city.
The keynote speaker at a two-day conference on art and culture in business
districts threw out this challenge to Lansing: Paris should be
Paris offers a summer beach party on the Seine, free all-night cultural
events and an almost infinite number of flea and antique markets, Robert
is the president of Partners for Livable Communities, a Washington-based
nonprofit coalition of more than 1,000 organizations. He spoke at a
two-day conference called How to incorporate Arts and Culture
into Neighborhood Revitalization Programs.
McNulty said art and cultural events are no longer seen as belonging
to elite segments of the population. Ten years ago, many organizations
would see culture as a luxury for the wealthy. However, he said, some
nonprofits are now using art and public culture as a powerful medium
for community change. He cited the NAACP and the Rockefeller, Walker,
and Ford foundations as examples, and encouraged other organizations
to learn from them.
About 60 people attended the conferences opening day at the Kellogg
Center at MSU. Amy Hovey, program director of the Lansing office of
Local Support Initiative Corp., which sponsored the event, said only
six people partook in a similar session in 1996 an indication
of the growing interest in the uses of art and culture to enhance business
McNulty offered several examples of how American cities have revived
downtown districts. In the 1980s, one of San Diegos wealthiest
women led the way when she publicly announced that shed
sell her house and her Maserati, and move downtown, to become a civic
player in the city.
In Pittsburgh, a nonprofit grassroots organization called Busk
Pittsburgh is making city parks and sidewalks more hospitable
to street performers. Busking is the centuries-old tradition
of performing art in public places for tips.
Louisville, Ky., opened an extreme sports park downtown. The area
is surrounded by restaurants and bars, and on a warm evening the downtown
park draws 2,000 people who come to see people ride their bikes and
skate, McNulty said,
McNulty advised workshop participants not only to focus on the preservation
of historic buildings, but also consider new buildings, as part of a
broader approach to the revival of downtown areas.
Try to get a hold of the latest architectural competition, so
that somehow that new municipal building does not become simply another
municipal building, he said.
When asked what he thought of Lansings project to develop a 110,000-square-foot
office building and adjacent 1,225-space parking ramp for downtown,
McNulty replied: This could be deadly.
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