Chicago weekly Newcity reports on an exciting proposal by Chicago to create a new district for the creative industries in what's called the Spice Barrel District on the Near South Side. Four buildings, old factories and warehouses, have been selected for conversion into not only studios and galleries, but especially office spaces, workshops, and a small-business incubator group to stir up and support creative entrepreneurship, from design houses to comedy troupes.
The wonderful thing about this is that the Department of Cultural Affairs of the city of Chicago is behind this, rather than a private developer. This bodes well for planned growth and triangulated support of the area, not to mention Chicago's outlook on the important role that the creative industries play in commerce.
Read more about the plan in Jason Foumberg's write up here. An excerpt from the article, on why old buildings are important, follows:
"Cities need old buildings so badly it is probably impossible for vigorous streets and districts to grow without them," wrote urban-planning maven Jane Jacobs in 1961. These four old buildings provide not just large, raw, malleable spaces that can be adapted to a wide range of work practices, but they also lend a great sense of character and ambiance. The Spice Barrel District is "one of my favorite places in the city to be," says cultural historian Tim Samuelson. Treeless pockets of decaying industry may not make everyone's list of favorite spots in Chicago, but from inside the buildings, looking out over the unobstructed skyline, Samuelson, who is co-author of "Unexpected Chicagoland," is able to clearly see the site's history and its rightful future, its structural quirks and the massive plan that his colleagues at the Cultural Center are undertaking.
We'd love to hear more about other cities that have done similar things, and welcome you to share what you know in the comments.