Friday, June 29, 2012

Salad Days In Des Moines

Turning around your city is a tough chore. Yesterday's bad news fuels the pessimists. With scarce inmigration, each person who leaves is magnified. Yet when the perception does change, the rebound gathers steam quickly. See Des Moines, Iowa:

The phrase “Des Moines is changing” has become a mantra in the past five years as the community has undergone a visual, architectural and cultural transformation right before our eyes. ...

... Perhaps the biggest accomplishment has been building the growing sense of pride in Des Moines. The event transforms the urban cityscape of downtown into a giant concert venue.

“It makes you interpret where you live in a different way,” Rossi said. “That kind of opens people’s eyes to other things that are possible. They perceive Des Moines in a different way.”

When residents see their community as a cool place with a cultural life capable of supporting 80/35, it creates an impression of their own home as a cool and dynamic place, a place you’d want to live.

Only a few years ago, city leaders understandably worried about the “brain-drain” that resulted in talented young folks leaving Iowa for more exciting cities.

“Everyone talks about how Des Moines is changing, and there’s so much potential,” Haverkamp said. “I think a lot more people believe in that now because they are seeing things happen.”

Emphasis added. The biggest problem I encounter in Rust Belt cities is the inability to interpret the urban environment in a different way. Generally, outsiders do that. It's a migrant thing. You see the world differently when you leave your hometown.

One doesn't have to migrate to think like a migrant. Perhaps Des Moines has unlocked that bit of wisdom. Or, a small group of outsiders saw something in the city that the locals couldn't imagine.

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