A cautionary tale for arts-based redevelopment?

An effort started in the 1980s and ’90s by downtown merchants to encourage people to shop there, centered around a renovated 1930s-era performing arts center. Loft housing for artists created with the help of tax dollars and a new zoning category to allow live-work rental properties. Sound familiar? No, it’s not Rahway.

Catching up on some reading in recent weeks, I came across this Wall Street Journal story (“Peekskill Lofts Less of Sparkplug Than Hoped”) about efforts in Peekskill, N.Y., to spark redevelopment with the help of the arts. The story quotes one artist who describes the lofts as a success while others talk about “tamping down expectations,” aware that zoning for artists “aren’t a cure-all.”

“It’s difficult to quantify what downtown might look like without artists living there, and business owners say that in this economy, any boost to their clientele is welcome. But on an average weekday, foot traffic through the downtown blocks is light, and there remain fewer bars and restaurants than in other arts-centric cities, such as Beacon, farther north.”

About all I know about Peekskill is that “The Facts of Life” was set there so I can’t say whether it’s working, but the WSJ story describes a striking parallel to Rahway. It’s worth the quick read.
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Rick Proctor, elected mayor last month, last week gave up his freeholder seat with a year remaining in his term, according to nj.com.