The Atlantic Cities recently reported on how a “mega-structure” affects a downtown. The article specifically contrasts Denver’s successful Coors Field with Phoenix’s less successful Chase Field.
But while the lessons are derived from two stadiums, they’re instructive for other types of buildings and “mega-structures” as well. For example, author Eric Jaffe quotes the researchers as saying
A key consideration that is often overlooked in the planning phase of these projects is the historical urban growth patterns and resulting urban form of the cities in which stadium development projects are proposed.
In other words, the same kinds of developments don’t function the same way in every city.
The article also tackles the issue of collateral development and sprawl. Denver’s Coors field succeed, apparently, because people lived nearer by and stuck around after games for surrounding attractions. By contrast, people in Phoenix lived further away and consequently left the stadium without spending much time — or money — in the city.
If you read this blog very often, you probably already know where I’m going with this: the Tabernacle Temple and to a lesser extent the Utah Valley Convention Center.
Neither of those new buildings are really “mega-structures,” but much like a stadium, they’ll be attracting people from both downtown and the surrounding communities. I’ve also expressed concern that these projects, especially the temple, won’t actually have the kinds of benefits that the city hopes because they won’t direct people into the surrounding streets.
If Provo wants these new developments to impact downtown the way Coors Field impacted Denver, it needs to seriously consider how they’ll interact with the surrounding areas. It’s also worth remembering that many educated and knowledgeable people thought Phoenix’s stadium would bolster that city, but those hopes were ultimately thwarted.