Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Owensboro City Commission Approves Downtown Master Plan

The Owensboro City Commission took the first step in the transformation of downtown Owensboro with their unanimous approval of the Downtown Master Plan Tuesday night.  

The City Commission Chambers were full of citizens expressing a strong level of support for the plan.   Among the comments were from citizens that have been actively engaged in the Gateway Planning process. Many voiced support for the Master Plan as a tool to attract people and investment to Owensboro.  

Recent research supports this logic.  A new paper by Gerald Carlino and Albert Saiz looked at 150 metropolitan areas around the United States and found that those rich in what they called “consumption amenities” - the things that make a city delightful, such as parks, historic sites, museums, beaches, and vibrant downtowns - “disproportionally attracted highly educated individuals and experienced faster housing price appreciation.”

In other words, urban growth and prosperity have less to do with transportation links and industrial infrastructure than these "consumption amenities."   Beautiful and charming cities draw a crowd, while the featureless and unattractive wilt like wallflowers.

Carlino and Saiz’s paper could give policy makers a new way to think about the conditions necessary for economic growth. As they consider how to boost the economy, they should think not about the raw materials of business, but about what will bring together talented people in the same place. This suggests a different approach to stimulus spending - and, likely, stark assessments about where to spend it that will not make for popular politics.  

The City of Owensboro is on the cutting edge with a local stimulus package that is creating "consumption amenities" in transforming downtown.