“Cool Cities,” “Vibrant Centers,” “Creative Class,” etc. – what they REALLY mean


My colleague Kathy Hoekstra noticed an announcement on the website of the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic growth about a state government “Vibrant Small Cities Initiative” program to hand out some $6 million in federal money to subsidize “façade improvements” on downtown buildings.


Kathy was pondering the distinction between “vibrant cities” and the “cool cities” that Gov. Granholm has touted as another government central-planners’ vision of how to revitalize Michigan. I suspect there’s no difference, that both are buzz-words describing an particular elite class’s vision of an ideal setting that in many cases they themselves do not choose.


Here’s my attempt to define the contents of that vision.


Places with high-density population (no detached, single family housing) that are inhabited by:

  • Older, upper-middle class singles or empty-nesters who don’t want detached, single family housing 
  • College students who are the offspring of upper-middle class families
  • Unmarried or childless college grads in their 20s or early 30s from the same upper-middle class background
  • Affluent, middle-aged homosexuals

This excludes suburban or urban neighborhoods inhabited by:

  • Families with children (any income level)
  • Individuals or families who prefer the privacy and space of detached, single family homes
  • Working people with limited incomes and leisure time
  • The underclass

And, for all the blather about “diversity,” the inhabitants of this ideal are restricted to a narrow class. It’s a highly class-driven vision.


2 Responses to ““Cool Cities,” “Vibrant Centers,” “Creative Class,” etc. – what they REALLY mean”

  1. Melissa Says:

    Your suspicions are correct. I spend my summers in Charlevoix, Michigan, which received a “Cool City” designation a few years ago. The older, wealthy and white population got a brand new, expensive downtown park and marina complex. Naturally, this is the same community that kept the Walmart out.

  2. Paul Moore Says:

    The Wal-Mart was built on farmland outside of Petoskey instead. When locals hollered, the city fathers said the development would spread no farther. Now there is a Meijer’s going in across the road.
    I think these are the same geniuses who approved the hotel/condo development downtown that only went as far as foundation pours before the $ ran out. Now there is a deep hole a city block wide collecting snow.
    Northern Michigan is a great place to live if you are employed by the government. Not so great if you have to work for a living.

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