30 March 2009


"Jennifer Guerra reports, artists in Detroit are buying up foreclosed properties and turning them into cultural havens. In the crumbling Motor City, Mitch and Gina Cope have been purchasing ailing properties at rock-bottom prices, and are encouraging other artists to do the same.

That part isn't shocking; rather, it was just a matter of time until a really good example showed up. Artist communities are known for reinventing downtrodden neighborhoods the world over; in fact, the phenomenon of artists-come-in, neighborhood-becomes-hot, prices-go-up, artists-forced-out is so familiar now that what's happening in Detroit can be seen as something like the larval stage of neighborhood development. But Guerra uncovered a development that hadn't even occurred to me:

Then [Mitch and Gina Cope] set their sights on the foreclosed house down the street — a working class, wood frame, single family house that was listed for sale for $1,900. The house had been trashed by scrappers who stole everything, including the copper plumbing, radiators and electrical lines. Still, they decided to buy it and turn it into what Cope calls the "Power House Project."
"Our idea — instead of putting it all back and connecting to the grid, we wanted to keep it off the grid and get enough solar and wind turbines and batteries to power this house and power the next-door house," [Mitch] Cope says.
Although it is small consolation in the face of overwhelming economic strife in Detroit and elsewhere as the foreclosure crisis continues, this story gave me a real feeling of hope and renewal. To me, this example and other corresponding cases – like the artist-driven re-imaginings of shopping malls and big box stores seems symbolic of an even larger cultural shift. The arts community isn't just moving into one downtrodden urban neighborhood; rather, they're taking on the ruins of the unsustainable. They're taking on big box stores, shopping malls, and grid-connected homes in the car capitol of North America. And they're not just creating new art. They're seizing the opportunity to turn old shells of buildings into independent, renewable energy-powered, 21st century-ready spaces.

15 March 2009

Thinking inside the Square

One's hopes for the Gosford Challenge's renewal of Gosford town centre were confounded by the announced call for a new cafe operator to replace the old one in Kibble Park.

"The café/restaurant boasts a unique location; having a northerly aspect overlooking the central park (Kibble Park) of Gosford utilised for passive recreation. The site is adjacent to the main shopping precinct of Gosford amongst the central business district and is supported by car parking and other public amenities in close proximity.
Responses are invited from proponents with the capability, vision and relevant experience to establish the Kibble Park café/restaurant at Gosford."

Somehow it seems that an opportunity, one of the few going, is being lost, when there are so many civic functions and cultural amenities not accommodated in the heart of town.

Replacing one cafe with another, is hardly thinking outside the square, and is probably putting the cart before the horse, or simply putting the cart with no horse. In Texas there is a 'one horse town' with interesting attitudes.