As promised earlier this week I will detail my thoughts on the success or failure probabilities of the Harrison Square project.
According to information provided by the census bureau 11% of the workforce in Allen county work in retail and another 2% work in the arts and entertainment field. If you were to look at other counties in the midwest with the same population and urban development you would find that these numbers are identical to most of them. This includes Indianapolis. It suggests that both industries are at the saturation point in our area.
The census bureau shows that our area is underrepresented in professional and technical services, management services, administrative and waste services. It also shows that we have a competitive advantage in the medical field that is unmatched in the midwest.
The above statistics were mentioned because this project is focusing on the types of jobs/ businesses that do not have a demand for growth. It also doesn't address those areas that do have a strong demand.
For downtown development to work a catalyst is needed to drive a surge of people to the area. I've spoken with people from both the Wizards and Indianapolis Indians.
For those unaware of the distinctions between the two clubs, the Wizards are the first stop for prospects to teach them all the skills needed to play in the majors. The Indians are the last stop for players before they join the majors and also serves as a location for rehabilitation of injured major league players.
My Wizards source said that their fans typically come from within a 30 mile radius of the stadium. Basically they are locals from Allen and adjoining counties. Not a lot of tourism potential.
My Indians source stated that their fans come from a 50 mile radius and they generally don't see a tourism spike unless a star comes down from the majors to recover from an injury or a rising star comes to town who will most likely make the majors by the season's end.
Their comments lead me to believe that the stadium will not result in the catalyst that drives people downtown. The Indians source stated that when they built a new stadium there was a surge for a year or two but turnout levels returned to normal shortly thereafter. I believe we will see the same type of response.
As much as I would like to see this project succeed I don't think it will for the following reasons:
- Its trying to create businesses that there is already too much local competition. The result will be a shifting of economic activity from the current location to downtown as well as a thinning of activity in pre-existing establishments downtown.
- If the new stadium doesn't create a substantial increase in tourism then both the new hotel and the Hilton will experience economic issues.
- The underinvestment of the private sector is also a concern. Project developers need to make a better effort at reducing the taxpayer's exposure to the risk of failure.
Overall the project looks good and has a great design. But the lack of insight into the human side of things in terms of the psychological, social, and economic needs af the community will ultimately doom this project. We are not in the age of build it and they will come.