Planned vs. spontaneous development around stadiums

Chicago's famed 'Wrigleyville,' which surrounds Wrigley stadium is a thriving commercial center. Can that organic development be replicated through government planning?

Beth A. Keiser/AP/File
Baseball fans watch the game at Wrigley Field in Chicago from roof tops across the street in this May 1998 file photo. in Chicago. The so-called "Wrigleyville" that surrounds the stadium is a thriving commercial and residential area.

Eric Parsons sends me this link to an Kansas City Star article about the need for an annual subsidy on the order of $10-$15 million to keep Kansas City’s Power and Light (P&L) District financially viable. The P&L District is a retail and entertainment area in downtown Kansas City located across the street from the gleaming Sprint Center, itself in the news at times for not having a major sports tenant.

The city first gave the OK to the P&L in 2006 with nearly $300 million in bonds floated to cover the project. Back then, it was expected to be financially self-sustaining within a few years. But the recession, high debt financing costs, and a push back of the opening date cut into the project’s finances. According to the article, it sounds as if a subsidy/bailout is a foregone conclusion.

When I read articles such as this, Wrigleyville in Chicago comes to mind. Wrigleyville is a vibrant neighborhood of bleacher-topped buildings, bars, retail shops, and restaurants surrounding Chicago’s Wrigley Field. But unlike the P&L, which was a planned development, Wrigleyville was something that grew up “organically” over time around the old park. Wrigley Field itself opened and entrepreneurs discovered untapped opportunities over the years. Wrigley blended into the neighborhood and the neighborhood blended into Wrigley.

Compare that to the P&L District which was built, along with the nearby Sprint Center, as part of a planned downtown redevelopment center. It was built partly with public money and opened with a lot of fanfare and hope. Now that the hope has turned to reality, the taxpayer is left to pay the tab.

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