By Maria Galloway
Griping is easy. Solutions are harder.
The first question we must asked when faced with the dying Arts District is “Does the city still want an arts district?” Everything I hear says “Yes.” People like the idea of an Arts District. It shows we are a serious city.
The second question is “Can the Short North still be that arts district?” Maybe. It depends.
If the developers and landlords are on board, then it can happen. If they continue to look at large spaces and see large restaurants and at small spaces and think “How can we combine them to make a large restaurant,” then the answer is “No.”
If they can carve up a large space for multiple small and creative spaces, then yes. If they can make their mega restaurant 150-sq-ft smaller to house a gallery, then yes. If they can offer financial incentives to galleries, then yes. If they can not lease to fitness centers, salons, or offices on the ground floor and instead have mixed and interesting retail, then there is a possibility.
The other challenge is the long overdue capital improvements. The project will be devastating, restricting access, bringing noise, construction and dust. This will be in addition to the multiple construction sites dotted throughout the district. Designed to make the Short North better, it will, eventually. But, will any of the current businesses be here to see it? Not Sure. Especially since it does seem as though a lot of the improvements are designed to service the restaurants and bars. Wider sidewalks with more space for outdoor dining? That really does not say much to the galleries and other retail.
The latest news is that an out-of-town consultant has been paid to populate the Short North with public art. This is the antithesis of the philosophy of the Short North. It takes away the cohesion, vision, and possibilities. I can’t help but think that money could have been better spent on actual art. Preferably by local artists.