The Arts District Albatross

Canton Arts District - Foursth Street
“Fourth Street” Digital art by BZTAT

A business bringing 1,000 jobs to a city like Canton, OH can be a very welcome thing. When rising unemployment and home foreclosure hits a city like it has in Canton, any new jobs are celebrated.

There are consequences, however.

When those jobs are low wage positions for people with few skills, a number of problems can arise for the neighbors of said businesses.

I am the neighbor of one of these said businesses.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have contributed significantly to the development of Canton’s Arts District in the downtown area. A number of artists and business leaders have worked tirelessly to develop the city center as a destination place for people to visit using artist studios, galleries, and performing arts venues as attractions to the downtown area.

We have an albatross, though.

Urban Architecture Canton Ohio Art by BZTAT
Digital art by BZTAT

A rather large building sat empty for quite some time smack dab in the middle of the district. Everyone hoped that it would eventually be inhabited by a company or organization with compatibility to the arts district. That did not happen.

It was instead purchased and inhabited by a call center company (lured by various incentives offered by the mayor) that has rapidly employed approximately 1,000 people. These employees in a rather short period of time have totally changed the artful character of the area in which I live and work.

I do not lament the numbers of people. It is the behaviors of these people that are concerning. I confess that I am shocked by their total disregard for the environment around them and lack of respect for others. Is this the future of America’s workforce?

When on their breaks, many of these individuals smoke and loiter along the street, making excessive noise and commotion that is anything but professional. They sit on flowers in carefully tended planters; they destroy property; and they liberally yell expletives at each other and unknown persons on their mobile phones.

I often wonder, if this is how they act while at work, imagine how they act at home!

The persons who drop them off or pick them up for their shifts sit in their cars with booming stereos that shake the windows, playing music with extremely profane and violent lyrics.

As you would suspect, this climate on MY street is now becoming a gathering place for nefarious individuals who have suspicious behaviors and provocative clothing, looking to “score” off of the newly hired who do not yet know how to budget a paycheck.

Will it be a place that people want to visit in the future, or will downtown Canton return to the blight it was just a few years ago?

Canton Ohio urban landscape digital art by BZTAT
digital art by BZTAT

Artists have to adapt and change with their circumstances, and I will. Still yet, I think the city has to think long and hard about its development strategy.

If businesses with troublesome employees are to be the priority, then a troublesome city will prevail.

Is that what Canton wants?

It is not what I want, nor is it what other creative professionals want. If Canton wants more than low wage earners, they will need to reconsider how they attract business to the city. The will need to be more proactive in mitigating the stresses one business can cause other businesses, and they will need to consider additional city services to accommodate influxes of workers.

They will need to think about how they retain those creative people who are willing to build their city into unique and desirable place to visit, live and work.

What is going on in your city? Do you have similar circumstances?