Skip to content Skip to site navigation

Richey Piiparinen's Posts

Comments

Rust Belt chic: Can gritty, beaten down cities find their inner cool?

A version of this story first appeared in Rustwire.

I think that troubled cities often tragically misinterpret what’s coolest about themselves. They scramble for cure-alls, something that will ‘attract business,’ always one convention center, one pedestrian mall or restaurant district away from revival. They miss their biggest, best, and probably most marketable asset: their unique and slightly off-center character. Few people go to New Orleans because it’s a 'normal' city -- or a ‘perfect’ or ‘safe’ one. They go because it’s crazy, borderline dysfunctional, permissive, shabby, alcoholic, and bat shit crazy -- and because it looks like nowhere else. Cleveland is one of my favorite cities. I don’t arrive there with a smile on my face every time because of the Cleveland Philharmonic.
-- Anthony Bourdain

It’s branding season again in my hometown of Cleveland. The Plain Dealer just announced plans to help rebrand the Mistake on the Lake “to change not only the look and feel of our region’s ‘capital city’ … but also the way the world and Clevelanders themselves look at it.”

Well, good luck with that. One need only examine the history of Cleveland’s branding campaigns to know past efforts have been a bit of a mess. There was the corporate-driven, perhaps overly optimistic motto “Best Location in the Nation,” coined by Cleveland Electric Illumination Co. in 1944 and adopted by city leaders. Then the Plain Dealer itself stumbled with a hopelessly hokey 1981 bumper-sticker insert reading, “New York’s the Big Apple, but Cleveland’s a Plum.” You don’t differentiate your city identity through omission, i.e., “we are not New York.” You do it by declaring what you are. And no Cleveland, you are not a plum. Sorry.

Read more: Cities

Comments

The city, stripped down: How ruin porn can help rebuild the Rust Belt

Photo: BB and HHThis essay originally appeared in Rustwire. Living in the Rust Belt, one becomes accustomed to things that many people would find shocking. Examples: Not long ago, I saw the façade of an abandoned building fall out of itself on fire and into the street. Firemen and neighbors gathered around to look. Nobody was surprised, really. It was more a communal experience than anything. Not a few weeks later, I went for a jog and came upon another building that had been reduced to a skeleton of twisted metal that had its insides sunken in. It was quiet. …

Read more: Cities