Inside Struggling Cities

Palladium Boots has this great three-part video series about Detroit, hosted by Johnny Knoxville. There isn’t any attempt to hide the city’s blight. Rather, the focus is on attempts to repopulate the city and build a new culture from scratch.

Click through for parts two and three.

What cities like Detroit have going for them is a low cost of everything. Like it’s mentioned in the video, it’s not just about cheap rent. Detroit has affordable commercial space; and they have a local government backing off from micromanaging businesses because they know they're lucky to have anything these days.

Struggling cities really need to capitalize on this. It's more than about simply giving artists a place where they can work without constant anxiety over bills. A few months ago Marketplace did a story on Cleveland's upscale restaurant scene. Most people don't know it exists, because in aggregate, Cleveland's economy is very weak.

What makes Cleveland's restaurant scene unique is that the restaurants are both upscale and not outrageously expensive. You don't need to be wealthy to enjoy a great meal at a nice restaurant. This makes the city unique. It's something that New York or Chicago can't offer. In those cities, you do need to be wealthy if you want to patronize comparable restaurants.

Local governments need to encourage this type of development. Otherwise, it won't matter how low the rents or the commercial leases are. If the red tape is too thick, little will get done.