Friday, March 22, 2013

Bohemian Like You

For real this time - Hotel Indigo is breaking ground.

Years ago, when the idea of a boutique hotel was proposed my initial reaction was one of "don't do it! - let's not lose the warehouse district". Like what Chirstopher Hutchins felt about the West Village in Vanity Fair,
Every successful society needs its Bohemia, a haven for the artists, exiles, and misfits who regenerate the culture. With the heart of New York’s West Village threatened by developers, London, Paris, and San Francisco have a message for Manhattan: Don’t do it!
(See: Last Call, Bohemia)

Cities need an incubator. A sanctuary. Marine sanctuaries are a place of refuge to replenish fish populations. A city needs an area where ideas and businesses can be replenished. A place to grow. A space where failure is an option and success is a chance. Often this means low-rent areas. Often this means empty warehouses. Historicaly these were the bohemian areas. The sections of the city that may have looked downtrodden but flourished with the people who worked with their hands. What we now euphemistically call the creative class. And as those creatives aged they became productive entrepreneurs. And this is why every city needs a place for its misfits. Those who want to go in an unlikely direction.

Traverse City had a literal little bohemia 100 years ago. This spawned the institutions of Sleder's and Lil Bo's as well as the entire Slabtown neighborhood. Though "bohemian" is not much used today - a better term might be "little Detroit".

For all the sadness and desperation surrounding that once great American city there are creatives in the core who are using the low rent area to grow their ideas. They can take these chances due to the existing low cost infrastructure. And manufacturing is coming back there. Bicycles, watches, leather goods, and so much more. Yeah, it might lead to gentrification someday but is that better than the alternative?

Traverse City had a warehouse district. Hotel Indigo will change the warehouse district in a big way. Like a suburban street named after a forest that was cut down for cul-de-sacs. But that is not the end of a lamentable story. And this is why I changed my mind.

I think Traverse City has a next little-Detroit area. An area of the City for risk takers to make their experiments.

Woodmere Avenue and the area east of Boardman Lake. Maybe beyond.

The Woodemere Ave corridor has had its redesign. The Boardman Lake trail is in place on the east side of the lake. And there is warehouse space available such as "The Glacier Dome" (The Ticker has a story of 70's bands playing there.)

And now Traverse City is about to get its Hotel Indigo. I hope the Hotel Indigo is successful and the people it will draw to downtown and the bayfront support all of our local businesses. Plus, Ballantine restaurant sounds interesting ("an American Gastropub and Belgian Bier Bar"). My initial fears of losing some sort of "authenticity" were misplaced.  Traverse City still has room for bohemians, a little Detroit, and if some new development gentrifies that area then perhaps a new area will become the incubator.

I just hope we, as a town, never lose areas to serve as our sanctuaries and incubators.

The Dandy Warhols inspired the title for this post:

Additional reading:

Record-Eagle: Chain hotel in works for Grandview Parkway
TCBusinessNews: Major chain hotel proposed in Traverse City's Warehouse District
TV 7&4: Four-story hotel coming to Traverse City?
TV 7&4: Local businesses speak out about proposed hotel
Fox33: Upscale hotel planned for Traverse City's warehouse district
Record-Eagle: Letters to the Record-Eagle editor in opposition
Record-Eagle: Proposed Hyatt hotel divides opinions
Record-Eagle: Downtown hotel plans hit roadblock
Record-Eagle: New hotel planned for Warehouse District
MyNorth: Hotel Indigo – Warehouse District
ICH: About Hotel Indigo
IPR: Warehouse District Ready To Boom
UpNorthLive: Hotel plans move forward at GT Commons
Downtown TC: Garland St input
Ticker: New Shops, New Brewery for Warehouse District
IPR: Woodmere Renaissance

Detroit links:
Freep: Ad agency Campbell Ewald headed downtown, with 600 jobs
FasctCoCreate Remaking Detroit: Can Creative Companies Save an American City on the Brink? and Meet The Makers: Rebuilding Detroit by Hand