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Why Downtown is the Best Place for Culture

  • Kansas City: Thumbs Up for Downtown
  • Lessons from Seven Cities
  • Downtown Success: Eight Themes
  • Beyond Location: Five Factors
  • Research Design


    Picture the world's most vibrant cities New York, Paris, Rome, London and you'll evoke images of exceptional art, theater and music.

    So entwined are these cities with their cultural institutions that their economies thrive, in part, on the strength of their cultural offerings. The same can be said on a smaller scale for American cities that use cultural centers to create civic identities and strengthen downtown. In these cases, well planned cultural investments augment, and even trigger economic regeneration.

    This "phenomenon," whereby the arts and the downtown core strengthen each other, is outlined in the "Cultural Advantage". The results can be applied to cities contemplating using cultural centers as an agent of downtown revitalization. The study makes the case for using culture as a catalyst for civic identity and a strong downtown.

    This study was commissioned by the Down-town Council of Kansas City, an advocacy organization whose mission is to create a business environment competitive with the suburbs and other cities. The goal of the study was to present the facts and logic for downtown Kansas City as the best location for a privately funded, $150 million performing arts center. This booklet summarizes the findings.

    The full study analyzes the cultural renaissance of seven comparable American cities to determine their downtown development strategies. Examined were Baltimore, Denver, Dallas, Cleveland, Phoenix, Pittsburgh and St. Louis all of which recently experienced a resurgence of economic strength tied, in part, to their downtown art and cultural venues. Of particular interest was how cities counteract the culprits of downtown demise: absence of nighttime retailing and restaurants, minimal after dark street activity, lack of a significant hotel base and difficulty in preserving and using historic office and retail structures to anchor core cities.

    In addition to study of the seven cities, the methodology implemented in Kansas City included several depth and group interviews, and analysis and correlation of data to develop the criteria for success in cultural economic development.

    Findings enumerate why downtown is the best location for a new performing arts center in Kansas City, and why, on a broader scale, virtually any downtown is the best place for culture.

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