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The Relationship between the Arts and Downtown Redevelopment in a Shrinking City: A St. Louis Case Study. Joanna P. Ganning, PhD Assistant Professor, Department of City & Metropolitan Planning Associate Director, Metropolitan Research Center University of Utah

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The Relationship between the Arts and Downtown Redevelopment in a Shrinking City: A St. Louis Case Study

Joanna P. Ganning, PhD

Assistant Professor, Department of City & Metropolitan Planning

Associate Director, Metropolitan Research Center

University of Utah


This research was funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, CFDA 45.024, Opportunity # 2013NEAORA.

Many thanks are due to J. Rosie Tighe, PhD (Appalachian State University) for her partnership on related work, and to Ashley Scarff for providing research assistance on this project.

Many thanks to Josh Goldman and Sarah Coffin for coordinating and promoting this morning’s talk.


Arts are good for economic development

  • Americans for the Arts economic impact calculator (found here).
  • Endorsement of the American Planning Association (found here).
  • Research from the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (found here).
  • St. Louis-specific research from the St. Louis Regional Arts Commission (found here and here).
  • Missouri-specific research done by Americans for the Arts (found here).
  • Lots of academic research in which Ann Markusen, among others, has been a leader.
  • A new book from the Brookings Institution to guide planning for the arts (available here).
  • Among other benefits, artists are often credited with transforming blighted neighborhoods into hip enclaves (Currid 2009; Lloyd 2005).

(Photo source:


Artists seek low rents, strong networks

Artists’ presence brings authenticity, vibrance

Increased demand for neighborhood real estate

Increased rents, pressure from residential and commercial development

Artists relocate

SOHO Effect (Molotch & Treskon 2009)

Does the SOHO effect happen in shrinking cities? Do places like St. Louis experience a different process, a “TraCi Effect”?

shrinking cities
Shrinking Cities

A city that is losing population. These cities often:

  • Have been losing population for a long time—in a few cases, as long as about 70 years
  • Have high rates of vacant land and vacant buildings
  • Have a difficult time acknowledging that near-future citywide growth is unlikely
  • Have not planned for continued decline
  • Have tight municipal budgets

These cities exist all over the world, but are most studied in the US and UK. The count of such cities varies substantially according to definitions and time periods used.

contextualizing downtown st louis
Contextualizing Downtown St. Louis

Between 2000 and 2010

  • Over $5 billion was invested in Downtown St. Louis
  • The resident population of Downtown St. Louis grew by 143%, compared to an 8.3% decline city-wide
  • The median residential rent increased from $628 to $766 (22%) in constant 2010 dollars
  • The median household income increased 49%, to $43,396 in constant 2010 dollars
  • Downtown transformed from a place characterized as having millions of square feet of vacant space largely inhabited by pigeons to being an enclave for young white collar workers
  • Downtown employment dropped 3.6%, to an estimated 72,766
  • St. Louis ranks poorly in artistic concentration, ranking 29 out of the 29 largest U.S. metropolitan areas (in 2000) for total artist concentration, and only as well as 23rd out of 29 in any sub-category (Markusen and Schrock, 2006, p. 1667).
contextualizing downtown st louis1
Contextualizing Downtown St. Louis

“It was 1993, and there had not been a new successful residential project in downtown St. Louis in 25 years. The 1 million square foot Metropolitan Square office building, completed in 1990, needed office tenants, so they convinced many businesses to move from the old loft buildings of Washington Ave. Washington Ave was dead….Ironically, the vacancies of these storied historic buildings actually created opportunity, opportunity for a few early pioneers to reclaim the buildings for loft residences. It started slow in 1996 with ArtLoft....The plan was an overwhelming marketing and economic development success reaching 100% occupancy in 4 months….Eighteen years after the first resident moved in, ArtLoft has NEVER had an extended vacancy…”

(, accessed 1/9/2014).

research questions
Research Questions

Question 1: Do the arts function as an anchor institution in downtown redevelopment?

While we know that the arts benefit economic development, arts-based businesses often lack the characteristics of the stable, large, immediately recognizable businesses that traditionally serve as anchors.

Question 2: Does the SOHO effect occur in weak market cities?

On the one hand, even after downtown’s $5 billion redevelopment, housing costs remain low and the downtown economy is improved for local businesses. However, housing costs have risen tremendously, and according to Markusen and Schrock (2006), the network density of artists in St. Louis is low, which would detract from the benefits of being downtown.

studying the arts in shrinking cities
Studying the Arts in Shrinking Cities
  • There is no consistent, spatially-disaggregated dataset covering public and private investments in downtowns, or anywhere for that matter. This makes redevelopment difficult to study.
  • There is no consistent, spatially-disaggregated, publicly available dataset of employment by occupation, employment by industry, or business-level employment data. This makes employment hard to study for any fine level of geography.
  • There is no consistent dataset, spatially-disaggregated or otherwise, on building vacancy, land vacancy, problem properties, or land ownership by land banks, and most cities have poorly managed, highly inaccurate records for these issues. This makes shrinking cities in general difficult to study.
  • Many artists are self-employed or have multiple jobs. This makes tracking artist employment nearly impossible across a sample of cities, and makes it expensive and difficult within any single city.
putting my research questions into action
Putting my research questions into action

Measuring Block-level Redevelopment

The Redevelopment Index was calculated as:

Investment + Population Change + Employment Change

Each variable was first divided by the area of each block, then converted to a z-score to standardize their units of measure.

The index was constructed by adding together the three components. The average index score was zero.

measuring redevelopment
Measuring Redevelopment

This is what we expect—redevelopment concentrated on the Washington Avenue and Olive/Locust corridors.

putting my research questions into action1
Putting my research questions into action

Question 1: Do the arts function as an anchor institution in downtown redevelopment?

Metrics used:

  • Index of Stability: the % of arts-based businesses open in 2000 and still open in 2010. Businesses that stayed open but moved were counted as “surviving”
  • Number of arts-based businesses in 2000

Question 2: Does the SOHO effect occur in weak market cities?

Metrics used:

  • Firm growth: Change in the number of arts-based businesses over the decade
  • Employment change: Change in the level of arts-based businesses over the decade
methods defining the arts
Methods: Defining the Arts

Counting arts-based businesses

Tier 1: Business employs artists and makes a product with direct artistic value

Tier 2: Business likely employs artists, but end product is not directly artistic

Tier 3S: Business supplies artists’ inputs

Tier 3V: Business provides a publication opportunity, venue, or forum for artists’ work

methods defining the arts1
Methods: Defining the Arts

Counting arts-based employment

Markusen and Schrock (2006) define arts-based employment as including:

  • Visual artists
  • Performing artists
  • Musicians and composers
  • Writers and authors

It is arts-based employment, not store fronts, that best represents the relationship between redevelopment and the arts.

  • Neither the Index of Stability nor the Number of Arts-based Businesses in 2000 was statistically significantly correlated with redevelopment.
  • There is no significant correlation between the change in arts-based businesses and redevelopment.

Using businesses as the unit of measure, the arts appear to neither anchor downtown redevelopment nor be driven out by redevelopment.


The relationship between downtown redevelopment and arts-based employment is statistically significant, and revealing.

  • Severe disinvestment is related to losses in arts employment
  • Arts employment gains are possible amid moderate block-level disinvestment, but are not the norm.
  • Positive and even moderately strong redevelopment benefits arts employment
  • Beyond a redevelopment index score of 4, redevelopment shows negative returns for arts employment
  • In its most extreme cases, redevelopment is related to losses in arts employment

Redevelopment is related to growth in arts occupations at the block level. Since the data on number of businesses was not significant, it stands to reason that 1 of 2 mechanisms is at play:

  • Employment grew in surviving arts businesses, or
  • Firms that closed were replaced by larger businesses or were replaced by other arts businesses with a higher percentage of artist employment.
brand new results1
Brand new results

Y = block-level change in arts-based type, where

1=yes, 0=no

Modeled as a function of:

  • Block-level economic restructuring
  • Block-level investments
  • Block-level population change
  • Population on the block in 2000
  • Block-level employment change

Where i=2-digit SIC industry

00=employment in 2000

10= employment in 2010


As block-level economic restructuring increases by 1 unit, the odds of a block that had arts employment in 2000 and in 2010 changing arts-based types increases by 2.4 times.

(Model 2 results)

summary the traci effect is real
Summary: The Traci Effect is real
  • Redevelopment in St. Louis, up to outlying, extreme cases, is associated with increasing employment in the arts at a fine geographic scale.
  • Disinvestment is associated with a decline in arts-based employment, even amid broader downtown redevelopment. There are several blocks that are exceptions to this rule, but this is the statistical pattern.
  • The relationship between redevelopment and the arts is revealed through arts-based employment, not arts-based store fronts.
  • The change in arts growth appears to be driven by the opening of larger businesses or businesses with higher proportions of employment in the arts.
  • A different crowd—new residents, new demand for creative services from businesses—changes the composition of the local arts industry.
conclusions and looking ahead
Conclusions and Looking Ahead
  • I was able to do this work in St. Louis through the extremely fortunate and equally rare situation where I had access to multiple proprietary and local data sources.
  • I would like to see this work expanded, either to other shrinking cities (testing generalizability of downtown results) or to other parts of St. Louis (to see whether the mechanisms at play downtown occur in satellite downtowns and other types of settings)
  • The evidence provided here should encourage both promoters and supporters of the arts, as well as planners and elected officials. Unlike the scenario in cities with stronger markets, the arts flourish amid strong redevelopment here. That’s an opportunity to plan for and promote the industry.
  • I would like to integrate this work with my broader research on shrinking cities
related research
Related Research
  • PI, Mobility versus Accessibility: Applications for Shrinking Cities. September 2013-March 2014. Funded by the National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC): $23,000.
  • Ganning, Joanna P. and J. Rosie Tighe “More about equity than place: A spatially disaggregated analysis of shrinking cities.” Under review: Journal of Planning Education and Research.
  • Ganning, Joanna P. and J. Rosie Tighe. “Assessing the feasibility of side yard programs as a solution to land vacancy in U.S. shrinking cities.” Under review, Urban Affairs Review.
  • J. Rosie Tighe and Joanna Ganning. “Two Sides of the Same Coin: Unequal and Uneven Development in St. Louis Then and Now.” Under review, Urban Geography.
a brief history
A Brief History

2003 College of Architecture added Planning

2005 Graduate program created

2007 Seed funds from Woodbury & Eccles

2008 Metropolitan Research Center approved

2008 Ph.D. in Metropolitan Planning, Policy & Design approved

2008 Master of Real Estate Development approved

2009 New programs launched; integration started

2010 Master of City & Metro Planning accredited

2010 Governing Board created

2013 $3M+ in research


The Metropolitan Research Center conducts basic and applied research on the built environment at the metropolitan scale, focusing on key forces shaping metropolitan form such as demographics, environment, technology, design, transportation, arts and culture, and governance. It seeks to expand knowledge in city and metropolitan affairs to improve policy and practice, and educate the general public on important issues facing communities.

thank you
Thank you!

Contact Information:

Joanna P. Ganning, PhD

Assistant Professor, Department of City and Metropolitan Planning

Associate Director, Metropolitan Research Center

College of Architecture + Planning

University of Utah

801-587-8129 (phone),