Mon, Aug 03, 2015 - Page 8 News List

A creative approach to developing urban areas

By Huang Huei-hua 黃惠華

In the past few years, there has been a new trend in which many countries have tried to promote urban development by involving creative industries. The Taipei City Government has recently introduced a rejuvenation plan for the city’s Datong District (大同) and hopes to attract creative talent as a result.

The marriage of creative industries with urban development can bring about a number of mutually beneficial effects.

First, the creative industries can show the country and the city to the international community, through movies, music, theater, the visual arts and TV programs, raising the profile of their cultural import and what makes them unique. This process might further increase the demand for creative talent, forming a new “creative stratum” of artists, designers, writers and performers and alter the trajectory in which the city develops.

Second, the coffee shops, parks, museums, art galleries, shops and festivals are the constituent elements of a city, while music, movies, exhibitions and art can change the atmosphere of a city, promoting the rejuvenation of the city environment.

Third, if residential zones have cultural spots and events such as art galleries or music venues, this can be helpful in increasing property prices.

Over the past few years, the US, Europe and Southeast Asian countries have started concentrating on developing creative industries. London is one of the most successful cities in this regard. The British government has invested heavily in creative industries, with investment worth as much as £71 billion (US$110.9 billion) in 2013 and last year. In under 20 years, London’s creative industries have managed to compete favorably with Paris. From a commercial perspective, creative industries are dominated by small and medium enterprises. Many experts believe that these kinds of businesses form the nucleus of national economic development.

All that is needed for this to work is for the city to have cultural capital or cultural elements with a long history, or cultural industries that can be capitalized upon. Taipei’s Datong District is as good an example as any. It has many well-known areas, buildings and traditional industries, many of which have been the focus of social movements and creative groups, demonstrating that they do, indeed, have the potential to act as the basis for creative development. The only thing is, these places simply do not have the visitor traffic during weekdays and the tourist traffic is mostly Japanese visitors. Neither are they at the top of the list on most tourists’ itineraries. How can businesses survive when people are not coming by? It is a big problem.

The city government needs to think about how it can use creative industries as a way to promote urban development, while at the same time making it possible for businesses to make money.

Perhaps it could start with a famous landmark, such as the Yongle Market (永樂市場) on Dihua Street (迪化街), and encourage the public to engage with textiles and the history of textile printing and dyeing.

Maybe the city could promote the lunar new year products Dihua Street is famous for and present them as something authentically Taiwanese, instead of just having lots of storefronts with placards advertising their wares suspended above entrances.

The Taipei Xiahai City God Temple in the same area is known for its efficacy, so why not give it a little marketing boost?

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