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Approaching Tyler's Downtown Square through Richard Florida's "Soul of The City": Openness, Social Offerings, and Aesthe

Updated on November 6, 2015

Openness, Social Offerings, and Aesthetics

Commentary on “The Soul of the City,”

By Richard Florida: Openness, Social Offerings, and Aesthetics, by JD Meyer

Dr. Richard Florida of the University of Toronto is one of the world’s leading urban development theorists. Dr. Florida’s landmark book, Rise of the Creative Class, showed how professionals in creative fields are bringing in the information age and making cities fun places in which to live. Dr. Florida cites the importance of the 3 T’s: talent, technology, and tolerance in leading to thriving cities. He's the senior editor for The Atlantic too and a frequent author for the journal. Territorial assets is the new fourth T.

“Soul of the City” examines the reasons people have for attachment to their communities, and the top three are openness, social offerings, and aesthetics. This article was a result of a giant survey called “Soul of the Community through a partnership between the Gallup Organization and Knight Foundation. Dr. Florida’s book, Who’s Your City reports some of their findings as well. Ten domains are questioned; the other seven are infrastructure, the economy, safety, leadership, education, civic involvement, and social capital. While the economic crisis is the number one concern of Americans, it does not have as major an effect on community attachment as openness, social offerings, and aesthetics. Furthermore, it seems to me that these categories can be cross-listed.

This link takes you to the Four Principles of the Main Street Movement (pg 4), the Eight Principles Guiding Successful Revitalization Programs (pg. 5), and Why Downtown is Important (pg.7)

Openness is revealed through researchers finding out if the community is a good place for different groups of people—synonymous with tolerance—one of Dr. Florida’s 3 T’s. Being friendly and welcoming is good economics, but it’s something that public policy can suggest more than legislate. Researchers asked if the community was a "good place for" different groups of people: "senior citizens, racial and ethnic minorities, families with kids, gays and lesbians, college graduates, and immigrants from other countries." In Universities and the Creative Economy, Richard Florida et al. described tolerance as "welcoming diverse people as neighbors and entertaining their views as valid and worthwhile." We'll cover openness mainly through the social offerings section.

Everyone wants to see fine dining in a downtown area and Tyler has several--including four famous restaurants: Rick's, owned by the brother of State Senator Kevin Eltife, and Jake's, together with Don Juan's and Taqueria el Lugar. Jake's and Rick's have a wide variety of New American cuisine. Don Juan's is a traditional Mexican restaurant with its first location near the soccer field on the West Side of Tyler. El Lugar is the most successful taqueria in the city with three previous locations scattered about the city. Thus we have openness in dining.

The Moore Street Lofts in Tyler, Texas won Best Adaptive Reuse at the Texas Downtown Revitalization Conference in 2009. Furthermore, Moore Street Lofts allows therapets, pets that are certified as helpful to the owner through a training program. Thus, this trendy apartment complex is friendly to intellectual pets and their keepers! That’s a step in the right direction.

Let’s examine the about section of Therapet. The Therapet Foundation is a type of animal-assisted therapy, in which the therapist uses the pets in goal-directed treatment. Therapet makes several guidelines: (1) All animals should be temperament tested. (2) The animals are given a complete veterinary screening. (3) The prospective therapets receive obedience training and a training session before beginning to work with patients.(4) Finally, there's a three month probationary period during which time the pets participate in animal-assisted therapy (AAT) or visitation.The Executive Director of Therapet, Shari Curran, is a registered Occupational Therapist with twenty-five years experience in animal-assisted therapy. Dogs are by-far the most common therapet in East Texas.

Social offerings are frequently connected to downtown-revitalization projects, according to Dr. Florida. Heart of Tyler has been active for twenty years. A "vibrant social core" is a "dense place where diverse groups of people can interact." Promotion, the second principle of the Main Street Movement, includes festivals and image development campaigns. Furthermore, frequency of events empowers a "things are happening" aura about a downtown. This is the second of the eight principles guiding successful revitalization programs.

For example, Gallery Main Street is an opportunity for local artists to submit their work for exhibition. It's a clear example of uniting social offerings with aesthetics. Heart of Tyler events are usually on Thursdays in the late afternoon and early evening. The art gallery has temporary art shows that follow a theme. Art walks are four times per year,in which an artist offers his/her works for sale in different place along the downtown walk. Thus we see an ongoing chance for entrepreneurship in the arts in Tyler. The next Art Walk is on Thursday June 29, 2013. W're going to have a 6" x 6" painting fundraiser this coming Thursday on June 6th. Arts entrepreneurship is a prominent program within Intellectual Entrepreneurship at University of Texas at Austin also.

A Bizz-Buzz is a downtown social gathering featuring Texas wine, cheese, hot sauce, chips, and dip. I got to meet some long-lost acquaintances and made two new friends as the ad predicted. Communicating by email is okay, but it does not beat face-to-face interaction—one of the reasons why Dr. Florida hails the concentrating effect of downtown areas. The now-closed,Salon Verve, hosted Meet the Artist nights, complete with a band, along with a free buffet catered by the main chef of Jake's--David Wallace. So we actually met three sets of artists.

Once upon a time, one of my writing prompts for my grammar/composition course was to write an essay in which people came to your city for an event; pretend you’re the director of tourism or whatever. One of my “A” students conceived of an imaginary gospel concert, and she emphasized the pine forest of East Texas. She is very active in her church. This brings up another fact. A wide range of social offerings should include conservative folks too. Not everybody wants to hang out at a bar, and I’m one of the few who does not stop writing whether I’m at a bar or taking notes from the pastor’s sermon at church.

Finally, we have aesthetics; is your city pretty in terms of natural beauty? The two questions about the city's attractiveness are how the residents "rated the area's parks, playgrounds, and trails and how they rated its overall beauty and physical setting." Dr. Florida concluded, "It turns out a pretty city is a lovable city." Tyler has become a national tree city, largely through the efforts of Mayor Barbara Bass. Already in the pine forests, Tyler like the rest of East Texas, has the necessary rainfall to support plenty of trees. Now planting more trees has become a goal; we all know that trees remove carbon dioxide from the air and provide shade.

In recent years, Dr. Richard Florida added a fourth "T" for urban development: territorial assets. In so doing, he has included a city's aesthetics, natural and man-made--together with proximity to places such as a port or oil fields. Good "town and gown" (university/community)relations could fall in this category too.

Downtown Tyler turned around a setback into a small park that shows the original interior walls. There was a fire that gutted several small shops on the east side of the square in 2009. But several prominent companies including Brookshire's Grocery came together to reconstruct the area into an open space amidst the commercial area. Meanwhile, the arts zone is on the southwest side of the square.

To conclude, community attachment as shown through openness, social offerings and aesthetics was shown through some aspects of Downtown Tyler: public and private. The Moore Street Lofts, a critically acclaimed grocery store turned loft apartment complex allows Therapets--trained pets for disabled renters. Gallery Main Street and the Art Walks are two types of social offerings. Vibrant downtowns lead to more creative output by bringing people together. Finally, the East Texas pine forests provide the grounding of the aesthetic beauty of Tyler.


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    • bohemiotx profile image

      Joffre Meyer 6 years ago from Tyler, TX

      Added more details this morning, including references to the Fit City movement. Go to another hub of mine, "Ways of Measuring Happiness," for related info.

    • bohemiotx profile image

      Joffre Meyer 6 years ago from Tyler, TX

      I added a summary to this article as suggested in an new helpful policy by the folks at hubpages. The subtitle zeroes in on the applications of Richard Florida's community attachment theories in Downtown Tyler, Texas.