City Plans to Revitalize Mid-Market Fail

The city's plans to spruce up the dying mid-Market area have hit another roadblock, with the failure of a yearlong $11 million effort to create a cultural district.

At the beginning of 2010, Mayor Gavin Newsom announced a plan to loan money to organizations capable of drawing cultural institutions to the area. But with the year drawing to a close, only a single loan has been made. It went to a hamburger restaurant. An official with the Office of Economic and Workforce development justified the loan by explaining that they wanted the definition of "cultural district" to be "flexible."

The City has refused to reveal whether any other organizations have applied for loans. It possible that the hamburger restaurant's was the only application that the City received.

There are a variety of reasons that the money hasn't gone to any other deserving institutions. For all its talk about flexibility, the City established a high threshold for eligibility. Among the requirements: the organization must hire at least one new employee for every $50,000 that they borrow. And they would need to generate significant monthly income to meet the interest on the loans.

Surveys show that arts organizations would like to move to mid-Market, if they could. But that would be expensive, and the City's cash isn't available to most of them. Most have yearly budgets below $100,000. Even though the economy has made property more affordable, the City hasn't taken any steps to help smaller arts organizations relocate to the neighborhood.

The City also attempted to create an "arts market" in civic center this summer, but it quickly turned into a strange trinket bazaar, where you're more likely to find cellphone chargers and souvenir t-shirts than original artworks.

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