Is a city-supported downtown baseball stadium and retail complex a good idea for Fort Wayne? Discussion about the proposed Harrison Square may be a moot point, with papers being drawn up and demolition in full swing, but still, the sides remain at loggerheads.
Opponents have been painted as cranky old conservatives. Supporters are portrayed as young optimistic professionals.
But the youngsters have a seemingly unlikely opponent in Richard Florida.
Florida is a professor at Carnegie Mellon University and the author of “The Rise of the Creative Class,” a best-selling book that studies the 38 million Americans he calls creatives: artists, scientists, musicians, architects and other such people. If anyone is in favor of attracting young creative professionals to cities, it’d be Prof Florida.
In his book, he’s critical of most cities’ efforts:
It’s not that these cities do not want to grow or encourage high-tech industries. In most cases, their leaders are doing everything they think they can to spur innovation and high-tech growth. But most of the time, they either can’t or won’t do the things required to create an environment or habitat that is attractive to the Creative Class.
Sounds like something any young creative person in Fort Wayne might say. But then Florida goes in a somewhat unexpected direction:
They pay lip service to the need to attract talent, but continue to pour resources into underwriting big-box retailers, subsidizing downtown malls, recruiting call centers and squandering precious taxpayer dollars on extravagant stadium complexes. (emphasis mine)
The most recent studies show that stadiums do not generate economic wealth and actually reduce local incomes.
Now, before I get flamed in the comments, I realize the differences in Harrison Square’s tax structure and private investment. But we can set that aside, because one big argument for building this stadium is supposed to be to attract and retain the young professional.
Florida begs to differ:
Not once during any of my focus groups and interviews did any member of the Creative Class mention professional sports as playing a role of any sort in their choice of where to live and work.
So why try to build stadiums?
The answer is simple. These cities are stuck in the past.
So Florida may very well call Harrison Square a step into the past, not the future.
I hope for great success for Harrison Square, despite Florida’s gloominess. But it is disingenous of Harrison Square supporters to be so cocky and dismissive of opponents as old stuck-in-the-muds. The very inventor of the term “creative class” may be the biggest critic of all.