There has been a trend in cities that old industrial parts of town get converted into hip, modern hubs for artistic folks and innovation. Sometimes this transition from decay to vibrancy experiences some growing pains. There are some who claim that these new innovation hubs are creating a negative disruption in established cities. Personally, I see this trend as a part of nature.
All organizations go through cycles
There is a birth cycle, growth, maturity, decay and death cycle — generally in that order. Countries, humans, companies, and other organizations go through these cycles. It is unclear how long a country might spend in each part of the cycle, but to give you a hint, the Roman empire lasted 507 years from start to finish while a human being generally lasts about 70 years depending on where they live and how healthy their habits are. Neighborhoods have a more unpredictable cycle as they can go uphill or downhill in a decade or so.
America used to be a very industrial country in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. But, after we became more technically evolved, and cheap labor became widely available overseas, it became more cost effective to outsource manufacturing to Taiwan, China, Japan, Costa Rica, Bangladesh, Korea, and other countries. The result of this outsourcing was that many urban manufacturing areas in the United States experienced significant decay and neglect starting in the 1970’s onward. But, in the late 90’s, artists and technology afficionados started creating their own presence in urban hubs.
Many renovated industrial areas become ghost towns at 6pm sharp
It is common for industrial areas turned art and technology centers to become ghost towns at exactly 6pm. There are no places to live in many of these areas and few places to eat. You can’t have any real type of life in that type of environment, plus it might not be safe to hang out at night. If you are trying to attract younger workers to work in a renovated industrial area, you need it to have a more homey feeling.
Los Angeles is the exception to the rule.
Los Angeles’ downtown industrial area has evolved into a thriving place for artists. Some of the hippest restaurants including Japanese, bakeries, sausage specialists, cafe’s and more have locations in this hip art district. There is an abundance of places to live as manufacturing buildings have been turned into expensive and desirable lofts that have secured parking. The only downside to this area is that it is near skid row and a lot of homeless wander in although the locals consider the homeless to be harmless.
Should you create an innovation hub in your city?
I like the idea of having different districts for people of different mindsets. If you want to attract innovative thinkers, you need to create an environment where they will feel safe, attracted and at home. It might be better if city governments played a role in creating incentives for cool businesses to start up in these areas before the areas become fully established so as to quicken the pace. The long term reward comes when your innovation hub grows to the point where your city becomes internationally known as a destination for innovation. From that point on, anything is possible!