Saturday, January 2nd, 2010

Midwest Miscellany

Casinos and convention centers don’t reverse the decline of population or attract immigrants to knowledge economy.” – Hunter Morrison on

Capacity for Pro Sports

BlogKC highlighted this study of which cities have the regional income potential for pro sports expansion. They have a great interactive map by sport. Be sure to look for the link to download all the data in the PDF format at the bottom of the graphic.

One of the interesting things about the study is their conclusion that any number of cities already have more pro sports than they can realistically support. Here are the Midwest cities that are “over-sported” by a significant amount, with the personal income deficit in billion of dollars.

  • Cleveland – ($77.20B)
  • Pittsburgh – ($60.62B)
  • Kansas City – ($57.07B)
  • Milwaukee – ($56.46B)
  • St. Louis – ($44.90B)
  • Twin Cities – ($43.13B)
  • Cincinnati – ($40.46B)
  • Detroit – ($21.57B)

These are all cities that don’t have enough regional income to support their existing teams. Not all of the cities in this situation are in the Midwest – Denver has a stunning $93.5B deficit – but a lot of them are. One thing these cities have in common: baseball, the most difficult sport to support.

Small Business Survival Index

The Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council published their 2009 Small Business Survival Index, which includes a ranking of the states. Here’s how states with my Midwest cities fared. The rank is national and the value is their proprietary index rating.

  • #11 – Ohio (51.250)
  • #15 – Indiana (52.602)
  • #18 – Missouri (53.277)
  • #23 – Michigan (55.383)
  • #24 – Illinois (55.983)
  • #27 – Pennsylvania (57.847)
  • #30 – Wisconsin (58.800)
  • #41 – Iowa (64.485)
  • #43 – Minnesota (72.149)

Happiest States

A group of researches created a ranking of the happiest states in America. (See the full results table). Here is where the Midwest states landed:

  • #29 – Wisconsin
  • #31 – Iowa
  • #35 – Kentucky
  • #41 – Pennsylvania
  • #44 – Ohio
  • #45 – Illinois
  • #47 – Indiana
  • #48 – Michigan

This must be one bleak part of the world to live in.

Census and Reapportionment

Daily Kos has a great breakdown of the likely results of reapportionment after the 2010 Census. (Obviously as a left politics site, their interpretation of the data is open to debate). Here is a look at likely changes in some state’s Congressional count, using the 2000-2009 data series.

  • Illinois (-1)
  • Iowa (-1)
  • Michigan (-1)
  • Ohio (-2)
  • Pennsylvania (-1)

Most Literate Cities

Central Connecticut State University issued their 2009 most literate cities list. Check their site for methodology information, but it looks like they are not using MSA, but city. YMMV (h/t BlogKC).

Here’s how Midwest cities stacked up in the league table:

  • #3 – Minneapolis
  • #4 – Pittsburgh
  • #7 – St. Paul
  • #9 – Cincinnati
  • #11 – St. Louis
  • #13 – Cleveland
  • #14 – Kansas City
  • #22 – Columbus
  • #25 – Indianapolis
  • #30 – Chicago
  • #31 – Milwaukee
  • #40 – Louisville
  • #51 – Detroit

The Creative Economy

It’s no secret that I’ve got a crush on Carol Coletta, and the video below will show you why. UrbanCincy pointed it out. While it appears to be from 2007, it is still relevant today.

If you don’t see the video, click here.

World and National Roundup

World mayors tackle climate change on their own.

NYT: ‘Smart Grid’ is making many households unhappy.

The Cleveland Fed publishes an interview with Matthew Khan.

Bruce Nussbaum: Is Green the “New Imperialism” or “New Communism”?

Slate ponders whether buying organic produce and natural shampoo can turn you into a heartless jerk in Buy Local, Act Evil.

Economic Development
NYT: In heart of Baghdad, plans to revive the pulse of a central artery

Governing: The Rise of the Megaregion (features commentary regrading my analysis of megaregions)

David Brooks proposes an innovation agenda.

Hector Tobar at the LA Times says recessions leave their mark on a city.

Architecture and Design
Christopher Hume: Good design sets a city up for success.

Flavorwire looks at the most beautiful airport terminals in the world.

Huffington Post: Best buildings of the decade

The New Yorker looks at the ten most positive architectural events of 2009 in that city (via @gosner).

Frank Gehry says don’t call me a starchitect.

Arts and Culture
NYT: In the arts, bigger buildings might not be better.

An interesting art event using vacant spaces in Minneapolis called Save Canvas (via @FTAC)

NYT: Is China’s economy speeding off the rails

Daily Mail: China’s 245MPH train service is the world’s fastest – And they built the whole thing start to finish in just four years.

BBC: Cheap fast trains are transport future

Boston Globe: Rail stimulus funds to bypass Northeast – The ironic rationale is “environmental studies”.

Jarrett Walker takes on the transit isn’t green because of empty buses canard.

Next American City: Cities and cycling

Atlanta: ARC’s new leader a visionary thinker.

The Oregonian: Portland not as white as figures show, coalition contends

FT on Baltimore: Home of ‘The Wire’ fears return of blight

San Francisco in the 1940’s

Instapundit pointed me at this interesting nine minute video about San Francisco, made in the 1940’s. If it doesn’t display for you, click here

On a related note, SF Weekly, in a lengthy story, calls San Francisco the worst run big city in the US, saying that in SF, intentions count for more than results.

New Cincinnati Streetcar Map

I dinged streetcar advocates in Cincinnati on the quality of their route maps, so let me recognize that they’ve rolled out a new one that is very good. Click to enlarge.

Bike Parking in Chicago

Tracy Swartz put together a great map of bike parking in various Chicago neighborhoods. Click to enlarge.

Airport Transit Service

Xing Columbus crunched some numbers to develop a list of transit trips per day to various airports in peer cities to Columbus, Ohio. Note, this is bus or rail. Here are how some cities fared, ranked by total number of daily trips:

  • Indianapolis – 81
  • Cleveland – 72
  • Milwaukee – 53
  • Cincinnati – 28
  • Columbus – 28
  • Louisville – 26
  • Kansas City – 22

Indianapolis has service every 20 minutes to downtown via its Green Line express service. However, that is only funded under a temporary grant. The Indy Star recently ran a story on this service.

Cleveland Re-Imagines Public Square

The Plain Dealer reports on Cleveland’s plan to re-imagine its public square

Two centuries after it was conceived as a New England-style town commons, Public Square in downtown Cleveland is a dead zone flanked by skyscrapers and filled by bus stops….But James Corner, one of the nation’s leading landscape architects, sees a huge potential to turn the 10-acre space at the heart of downtown into an iconic destination on par with Chicago’s Millennium Park. He wants to see the square filled with people strolling, sunning, picnicking or relishing public art, concerts, gardens or outdoor markets.

This should be a good project for Cleveland. Brewed Fresh Daily has some must-read commentary on it.

I find a couple of things interesting. First is again the reference to Millennium Park. I christened the term Millennium Park Effect as an analog to the Bilbao effect, describing how cities are increasingly turning to signature works of landscape architecture in an attempt to transform underutilized public spaces.

I think upgrading quality of space is almost always good, but also think we’ve got to be careful about over-extrapolating from the Chicago example. Michigan Avenue already was home to hordes of people. Millennium Park is a key draw, but wasn’t chartered with bringing life to urban dead space in the same way as many of these other projects. Chicago already had the people.

My guess is that Cleveland’s Public Square wouldn’t be viewed so negatively if there were people in it. In a sense we blame the space when the real problem may be more existential. Regardless, Jane Jacobs rightly inveighed against the fetishization of open space. Open space is, in an urban context, too often dead space, even if it does happen to have grass growing on it. Energizing a space like Public Square is going to be a challenge in the best of cases. My guess is that extensive programming will be required. However, given the success St. Louis has had with City Garden, changing the landscape would appear to have a role to play in making the space more inviting and actually used.

More Midwest

The Washington Post has a slide show about the recession in the Rust Belt (via Rust Wire)

Casino groups spend $47 million to win passage of an initiative permitting casinos in that state.

BlogKC made me aware of an incredulous fact: St. Louis and Kansas City don’t control their own city police forces. Apparently in Missouri, these municipal departments are controlled by the state. Wow. St. Louis wants that to change and I would 100% agree. Cities need to control their own public safety forces.

GoIndyGo looks at Midwest regional unemployment

Burgh Diaspora: Shrinking Cities Heartland in Youngstown chastises a business group for inviting unrepentant convicted felon James Trafficant to be a keynote speaker at their event.

Buffalo charges ahead into past (USA Today)
Buffalo Dreamin’ (Andrew Sprung @ The Daily Dish)

High prices at McCormick costing Chicago (Tribune) – Another piece on Chicago’s struggling convention business
Chicago architecture 2000-2009 (Lee Bey @ WBEZ)
The Stately Ruins of a Methodist Church in Gary, Indiana (io9)

A Downtown Cleveland Fantasy (BFD)
Welcome to the decade of the Super Region (Plain Dealer)

Detroit artists use city’s blight as their canvas (Yahoo/AP)
Repopulate Detroit with Urban Homesteading (Detroit News)
Investors see farms as a way to grow Detroit (LA Times)
Until Robert Bobb’s hands to fix Detroit schools (Free Press)

The Invisible Mayor (Indianapolis Monthly)
Profile of Barrett Crites from Atomic Indy (Indianapolis Monthly)
WANTED: People to roll up their sleeves and rebuild Martinsville – Jon Speer is looking for your help

Kansas City
Could recession and job losses to Johnson County be leading to changes in KC corporate welfare? (BlogKC)
KC school district has 1000 employees too many (KC Star)

St. Louis
St. Louis zoning needs to be change (St. Louis Urban Review) – True of many cities

Google moving into old Nabisco plant site (Post-Gazette) – Google is doubling in size in Pittsburgh (via Politics and Place)
Pittsburgh stands tall amid national turmoil (Post Gazette)

Twin Cities
MnDOT getting a line on Twin Cities-Duluth rail (Star Tribune)


Chicago Opera Theater General Director Brian Dickie posted some pictures from the Polar Bear Club of Chicago annual New Year’s Day dip.

Topics: Architecture and Design, Economic Development, Transportation
Cities: Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, San Francisco

14 Responses to “Midwest Miscellany”

  1. Steven Vance says:

    You know, that IS a GREAT map of bike parking Chicago! I’ve never seen a greater map in my life!
    Download the data for yourself and make a better map (yes, it can be done, I can tell you how):

    I think I like Midwest Miscellanies the best.

  2. JC says:

    No one can ever accuse you of following general blogging norms that suggest relatively brief and concise posts.

    Too much of a good thing can still be too much you know.

  3. Alon Levy says:

    The sports study doesn’t seem too auspicious. Here’s the full explanation of how the authors decided which cities should have more sports and which cities should have less:

    We used team revenue data and average ticket prices to calculate the amount of TPI [total personal income] needed to adequately support a team in each league. Minimum income bases were estimated to be $86.7 billion for MLB, $37.3 billion for the NFL and NHL, $36.4 billion for the NBA, and $13.9 billion for MLS.

    We then calculated each area’s available personal income (API) by subtracting the TPI needed to support the market’s existing teams. Philadelphia, for example, has TPI of $274.1 billion. But its four existing franchises (MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL), along with an MLS expansion team that will begin play next year, need a base of $211.6 billion, resulting in API of $62.5 billion.

    No further explanation is provided for why the study assumes every team is like the average team, or how it accounts for lost revenue from the space (which would scale with per capita income, making population a better indicator than total personal income), tax breaks, or traffic impacts. Why does a metro area need $86.7 billion to support an MLB team, I don’t know.

  4. Alon Levy says:

    Now I’ve read the article about San Francisco’s being the worst-run city in America, and it’s bleh. To show SF is a bad model, the article quotes Joel Kotkin as saying that, “I have never heard anyone, even among liberals, say, ‘If only [our city] could be run like San Francisco.’ Even other liberal places wouldn’t put up with the degree of dysfunction they have in San Francisco. In Houston, the exact opposite of San Francisco, I assume you’d get shot.”

    Now, first, SF has a lower murder rate than Houston, so the shooting metaphor is bad. And second, Kotkin never says which liberals he’s referring to; the ones I know, from the liberal New York thinktank DMI, routinely propose that NYC import social policies from SF.

    Overall, the article isn’t very convincing. It lists mishaps by SF, rather than explanations of how SF is worse-run than Chicago, NYC, DC, or any of the other usual contenders for worst-run city in America.

  5. Steve vs. JC, we can’t please everybody all the time.

    I was definitely backed up with material from the Christmas break. My plan to post these frequently enough to avoid too many more mega-link dumps.

  6. From CCSU’s site about the “most literate cities” (at your link):

    This study focuses on six key indicators of literacy: newspaper circulation, number of bookstores, library resources, periodical publishing resources, educational attainment, and Internet resources.

    Newspaper circulation?? Newspaper circulation is, if anything, an inverse indicator of digital literacy. I’m plenty literate, but I take pride in not subscribing to any dead-tree newspapers.

    Bookstores, sadly, are also a poor indicator in the age of the Kindle.

  7. JC says:

    Steve vs. JC? Huh?

    Are comments aren’t apples to apples.

    I like Midwest Miscellanies a lot too, but not in such gargantuan proportions, a point you’ve now addressed.

    If I have to block out several hours to read one post and follow relevant links, odds are it’s not going to happen.

  8. John says:

    I think Cleveland’s Public Square is more well used than you assume. It’s not used as a park so much, but there are a lot of pedestrians walking through the area since all of the train lines, the BRT line, and multiple bus routes all converge there. Again we have hit on the need for you to visit the C-land sometime. The proposed designs for the square are very interesting and exciting though.

  9. Anon says:

    I ride the train to work in Cleveland and pass through the square every day. I think all the plans are flawed. Public Square is a transit center. Trying to make it into a park is just going to slow everyone down and block the views of the building facades, which are quite impressive. You need to be able to see across the square at street level, or its just another city block.

    We have a large, very underused mall that was intended for gatherings and concerts. I almost touches public square. The problem is that there are few destinations surrounding the mall. If it is connected to the lake with some kind of bridge over the tracks and highway, we could pull more people north. And obviously, the med mart would help.

    Public Square does have more than its share of thuggish looking high-school-aged kids, but building something isn’t going to get rid of them. Maybe an underground transit exchange behind tower city that could be heavily policed, or exchanges east and west of downtown to move some of the transit waiting out of the CBD.

  10. Pete from Baltimore says:

    MR Renn
    First of all i would just like to say that i myself enjoy the fact that you have several links in your Midwest Miscellany posts.

    I am also grateful for you including the FT article on Baltimore since i know that you usually like to focus only on the midwest.

    The neighborhood featured [South East Baltimore] is actually where i live.I run a very small interior demolition company that does interior demolition on rowhouses that are being rehabbed.Since business is dead right now i have had my business card enlarged to postcard size and have put over two thousand of them under vacant house’s doors in the hope that when they ARE sold someone will call me.

    Please keep in mind that i have kept out of the REALLY bad areas where there is no hope for revitalisation.Yet i have still been able to find over two thousand vacant houses.Many of them were in the area mentioned in the FT article.

    Since all of them are rowhouses that are attached to other rowhouses which are occupied, they cant be torn down.Yet at the same time they cant be sold.Some have been boarded up for years and one wonders what will happen to them.

    Years ago they had the \Dollar House\ program where they sold houses in Baltimore for a dollar to urban homesteaders.

    I know that houses are cheap in Detroit right now.But the difference whith the \Dollar House\ program was that the city worked with the homeowner to fix up the houses.They gave people 1% home improvement loans .And provided advisors and architechts to help the homeowners with the rehabbing process.The program was also designed to keep out \flippers\ and speculators who would just buy houses to sit on them while they remained empty.There was a requirement for living in the house for a certain amount of time.

    I wish that Baltimore and other cities would bring back that type of program.

    Until then i have 4000 more busness cards to pass out and i should have no problem finding 4000 vacant houses in Baltimore.At least i will get a lot of walking done during this recession!

  11. Pete, that’s a fascinating bit of info about Baltimore, a city I don’t know nearly as much about as I would like. Good luck with your business.

  12. Jake M. says:

    Good stuff on the sports cities. I’d definitely say Milwaukee could live without the Bucks, given the lack of corporate backing of luxury boxes and the general lack of interest in the NBA here. In fact, I’d argue that you could swap the Bucks for an NHL franchise, and it’d have a much better chance of surviving in the outdated Bradley Center (which is discussing more aid in order to update and operate, but neither the City nor County have any capacity to help with public funds).

    Also noticed that the Pacers are talking about a bailout as well from the CIB to help it stay afloat since attendance has tanked since the Artest brawl. Bill Simmons wrote last year that up to 10 NBA teams may be in serious trouble with the current system, and it almost guarantees a work stoppage in 2011.

  13. chuck says:

    The Available Personal Income for sports numbers are interesting but, I believe, nearly useless. This same report from a couple years ago showed Seattle with $0.7b API – 156th in the rankings! – but the MLS wisely decided to expand there anyway last year and the response (in the worst economic climate since my great grandfather’s days) has been HUGE (well, for soccer).

    On that note, how many Denver teams are struggling at the gate? The Avalanche are sitting at #9 on Forbes chart of most valuable NHL teams; Brocos are #11, Nuggets are middle of the pack at #19, the Rockies are #20 (bottom of the middle third of MLB but still highly profitable).

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