Here’s Ypsi blogger Mark Maynard’s take on all this cool cities madness:

” … The secret, it seems to me, is to find places with the right demographics, proximity to cultural events, and yet affordable space. Right now is a good time for Ypsi. There’s a lot of energy, as is evidenced by Jennifer’s hip store, and (dare I say it) the return of Crimewave. Now, people are beginning to invest in our downtown, rehabbing buildings and such. Soon, and it won’t be too far off, everything will be out of the price range of this “creative class” that the Governor wants to keep. I suppose that’s inevitable

If you eat, you’re gonna shit.

One day, there will be a Starbucks on Michigan Avenue.

Oh, one of the things that bothers me the most about this is the fact that the end-game, politically speaking, isn’t having a thriving arts community. Success in the minds of city planners is the gentrification which follows the creative class. The creative class in this scenario is like the canary in the coal mine. They go in and test the waters. They see if an area is safe. Then, and only then, does the real investment start pouring in. Success, to these people, I’m quite sure, isn’t Jennifer’s store, it’s the shopping complex which might follow it. I think that’s what concerns a lot of us. We don’t want to let Ypsi get away from us. There are things about this community that we love. And, there’s a reason why Linette and I have moved back here twice after getting out… The good news is, lots of other people feel the same way and there’s a chance that we can organize and direct things to some extent. I don’t know if it’s possible to keep Ypsi’s downtown franchise-free, but we can try.” (Post citation)

I think he’s onto something. While gentrification is certainly a problem, I think it’s useless to call it inevitable and give up. This is part of the reason why cities MUST be fine-grained. For example, lot sizes should be small, and buildings should have many uses – so that there’s a lot of odd corners where people can start businesses and generally be creative, while Starbucks has colonized the prime space. I think the State Street area is a good example of this: although the street-level shops have largely given away to corporate monoliths (Starbucks, Sprint Store, Potbelly’s) there are still a few record shops, head shops, tattoo parlors, used book stores and the like sprinkled about. This is because the older buildings have spaces that are available for these uses (even a record shop inside Bivouac!). If Peter Allen had developed the whole street as one giant new urbanist development, none of these small businesses would survive, and Ann Arbor would not have what little cool it retains. It also occurs to me there are several easy solutions to these problems that I’m sure the decidedly uncool people who run the state would shout down as socialist, as they relish their socialist gasoline (price kept cheap by ruthless imperialism) and socialist roads. Municipalities may need to look into rent control, tax credits for small businesses, interest free loans for people who want to start businesses, and perhaps restricting chain businesses outright – although I’m not sure what limits there are within the law.

Author: Rob