ArtPlace has released a report on the “top 12 ArtPlaces” in the country – the neighborhoods or clusters that scored highest on a subset of the funder’s much-discussed vibrancy indicators: number of “indicator” businesses (“eating and drinking places, shops, personal service establishments and other businesses that cater to consumers”), percentage of independently owned businesses, walkability, percentage of workers in creative occupations (“artists, writers, entertainers, architects, engineers and designers”), number of arts-related nonprofit organizations, and number of arts-related businesses. The results are organized by ZIP Code and then ranked, with a half-mile radius being drawn around the epicenter of activity in each ZIP.
The list is clearly media bait – there have already been five events scheduled to provide mayors and city officials an opportunity to crow in public about making the inner circle, and ArtPlace is openly soliciting more. And, no surprise, the list does not provide any insight on how ArtPlace’s own investments fit in to the mix. That said, I do like the fact that it is quantitative rather than editorially-driven, and if what we’re really measuring is “rapidly gentrifying hipster paradises,” it passes the smell test at least for two of the places I’ve spent significant time: Washington, DC (the intersection of U Street/Adams Morgan/Dupont) and San Francisco (Mission District).
Having just recently moved to (and therefore looked for an apartment in) DC, it’s uncanny how well the methodology captured my preferences in that city. Although we ended up in the somewhat less exciting neighborhood of Cleveland Park for commuting-related reasons, I recall being instantly attracted by the obvious bustle and life around the corner of Columbia Road, Adams Mill Road, and 18th Street during early and subsequent visits. New York’s entries are a little more surprising – Manhattan is represented not by the West Village or the Lower East Side, but by Manhattan Valley, a term I have never heard before despite living in NYC for six years but that apparently refers to the area spanning upper Upper West Side and lower Morningside Heights. (A slightly odd choice to normalize the results by income, pushing up lower-income areas that have higher-than-expected concentrations of cultural resources, might be affecting what we’re seeing here.) Brooklyn also makes the list with what is now known as the BAM Cultural District (home to the new Barclays Center), rather than ultra-hot Williamsburg, I’m guessing because there aren’t enough nonprofit organizations in the latter neighborhood. I was surprised not to see the Boston area represented in the top 12, although both Back Bay and North Cambridge made a longer list of 44, representing the nation’s largest metropolitan areas. The press release notes that a “Top Small Town ArtPlaces” list is being prepared for later this year.
At the very least, it all makes for some pretty maps.
Related: the NEA’s Our Town gets a glowing review as an “example of powerful placemaking” in The Atlantic Cities.
Update: here’s some more local perspective from Dallas.