Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Can enclave development "save" Prince George's County?

In college, I studied political science and for a few years was particularly interested in the political and economic development of nations in Central and South America, the impact of foreign (U.S.) involvement in other nations, multinational corporations and business development, etc.

One of the big concepts then was underdevelopment (Andre Gunder Frank et al.) and one of the examples of under-development was so-called enclave development, mostly around resource extraction where mines and related industry extracted resources and transportation systems were built to take the resources to a port at the sea where they could then be transported directly to global markets. In the process, little positive spillover development occurred around the resource extraction industrial centers in the nation. (Another element of this process is called the "resource curse," see "The Political Economy of the Resource Curse" by Michael Ross.)

But the way enclave development works is similar to how local governments tout the economic and other benefits of big projects--convention centers, stadiums, arenas, resort centers, casinos--that they try to bring to their community.

It's fair to say that most of the recent ideas touted for the eastern campus of the old St. Elizabeths Hospital in DC are enclave-like development unlikely to have the kind of spillover benefit that's purported. See "The Gunbelt in DC" from 2011.

(Note that the same thing goes for ideas for redevelopment in Benton Harbor, Michigan as reported in the New York Times Magazine, "Now That the Factories Are Closed, It's Tee Time.")

Today's Post has a column, "Upscale casino could help Prince George's image," by Robert McCartney about how casino development at National Harbor in Prince George's County can be a good thing. Maybe it can.

But I have argued that with regard to development, transit, and the capture of office-related development, that Prince George's County's biggest problem is the lack of "there," no real central places, unlike say how Bethesda, Silver Spring, Rockville, Gaithersburg, and Wheaton function in Montgomery County.

So if Prince George's County's biggest need is to create place, connection, and centrality to refocus the development and quality of life paradigm for the future, is a casino the way to do it?

Or is it an example of enclave development and a form of the resource curse?

It's not like casino gambling is working out so well for Atlantic City, New Jersey, which outside of the casino district is still a desperate and disinvested place. Atlantic City's experience is the perfect example of the failures of enclave development, and so maybe is Las Vegas (see "Agency takes dive into Atlantic City revitalization" from the Camden Courier-Post) and "Atlantic City, fallen on hard times, to get facelift" from Reuters).

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