CoolTowns in Utah?
Many people believe Utah may be the most entrepreneurial state in the country – its Mormon values for individual success being a factor.
Joe Alfandre and I visited three towns in Utah this week: Pleasant Grove, St. George and Logan. Pleasant Grove valued revitalizing its downtown, though more from a historic preservation point of view. St. George wanted to revitalize its downtown as a regional destination with some artistic, cultural excitement. They both understood the CoolTown approach to making that a reality.
The town that already had a CoolTown vision was Logan. It’s no coincidence that the president of the town’s 22,000-student university helped found the Research Triangle Park in Raleigh, NC* (see comments below for clarification). University administrators and city leaders alike embraced the notion that a CoolTown center would attract and retain the most innovative people, which is why the university renamed their R&D growth efforts as the Innovation Campus.
Image: The Gateway in downtown Salt Lake City. If it were vastly more affordable with more housing, workplaces and mom & pops, it’d be a CoolTown.
Umm, I enjoy your site, but…have you been to Research Triangle Park? I work in RTP and the physical design of RTP is completely the antithesis of everything your site is about.
The physical environment here could only be more anti-pedestrian and anti-transit if there were a genetically modified race of small, roadside-dwelling creatures that were specifically trained to attack people using alternative modes. (there are probably enough geneticists here to breed such an animal)
Anyway, be very suspicious of anyone touting RTP as a beacon of light for creating a compelling urban environment.
Yes, the economic success of the area is undeniable- the PhD per capita rates here are off the chart, and there are good jobs, but there isn’t a single building in RTP that people would mourn if it burned down overnight.
Perhaps this is the reason that RTP is 25% vacant right now. Without the jobs, there’s not any compelling reason for the Creative Class to live here in terms of true urban amenities- outside of a few small enclaves, the Triangle region is cul-de-sacs and chain retail garbage as far as the eye can see.
Good for examples of progress in Utah. Make no mistake, there’s nothing “CoolTownish” about RTP.
I couldn’t agree with you more. What makes Logan special is they want the entrepreneurialism of RTP WITHIN a compelling urban environment. Just the same, there’s a lot of great urban fabric in this country with little or no economic reason to move there (ie most inner cities and downtowns). I’m glad you posted your comment because I didn’t make that clear.
Thanks for the follow-up; it seems we’re on the same page. This is perhaps the big question that urbanists need to answer not so much for themselves, but for the general public, the private sector, and local governments: how does economic activity (which many people believe cannot occur unless you are in a car) develop in non-suburban strip mall environs?