Saturday, May 12, 2012

Urban Spectacles and Global Appeal

City planning used to be about controlling and managing urban growth. It used to focus on organizing public spaces and land use to create livable cities. However, over the past several decades, it has become a tool for economic development and urban entrepreneurship. The focus has shifted from deploying planning principles to economic development.

A 1998 book - The entrepreneurial city: Geographies of politics, regimes and representation – describes urban entrepreneurship as the manipulation of urban landscape to promote capital accumulation and consumption. Urban spectacles are perfect examples of urban entrepreneurship in action. The urban spectacles have become so important for urban growth and vitality, that cities are constantly looking for ways to attract private capital and visitors by staging world class global events such as the Olympic Games. Such urban spectacles give a big boost to the host city as a dynamic and world-class city and act as catalysts for large scale urban transformations. They also allow many city governments to set their growth agendas in motion by bypassing normal public reviews and bottlenecks.

For example, Chicago’s new mayor is working hard to generate a positive buzz about Chicago’s downtown as a center for business services and corporate headquarters. His efforts have yielded 15,000 new jobs in his first year in office. While his agenda appears to be heavy on “hype”, it does enhance the perception of Chicago as a place to visit and locate businesses.

The Millennium Park, and a failed bid for 2016 Olympics by the previous mayor were also geared towards enhancing global appeal. Although not as much of an urban spectacle as the Olympic Games, Chicago is looking forward to hosting the NATO summit on May 21st and 22nd, and hopes that it would boost its reputation as a global destination. In fact, this is the first time a NATO summit is being held in the Unites States that is outside of Washington DC.

Reference: Bergen, Kathy, One year in: Mayor Rahm Emanuel tightens ties with business, Chicago Tribune, May 14, 2012

Photo Credit:  Beyond My Ken under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later.
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