Listening to Reason
Copeland, who spent about six weeks in Germany last year, has a nice article in Reason magazine about Berlin's failed attempts to create a city center through government-driven development projects. Here's the money shot, in my opinion:
Berlin isn’t the only city to learn these urban planning lessons the hard way. Granted, New York still has its Times Square, but it’s more a destination for tourists—much as Potsdamer Platz is becoming—than a place where people want to live. And it’s next to impossible to single out any one residential or neighborhood business district that defines any other major urban area, whether in Tokyo, Los Angeles, London, or Moscow. Contemporary urban growth patterns have turned many cities into collections of places, which combine to create an overall urban identity. Surely it’s no accident that the Berlin districts that are doing best are also those that have been thus far ignored by city planners.
For decades, Pittsburgh has poured good money after bad to redevelop its Downtown, ignoring in the meantime that plenty of neighborhood business districts--like the South Side, the Strip District, Shadyside, Squirrel Hill, and even Brookline--are thriving without any help at all. A bustling Downtown is great if it can happen on its own, but it's not a necessary or sufficient condition for the city's success. It's just something that looks pretty on a postcard.