Transient and Informal: Negotiating Temporary Use in Portland, Chicago and Detroit

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Using the framework of the Tragedy of the Anticommons and informality this paper explores how some actors have attempted to navigate the complicated tangle of intersecting and contradictory property rights and regulatory regimes in the US and ambiguous position of temporary uses within these spaces. Using this framework, three examples – food carts in Portland, Oregon, neighborhood markets in Chicago, Illinois, and pop-up shops in Detroit, Michigan – are used to highlight specific challenges faced in trying to negotiate informality and the complicated task of navigating local land use regulations, retail markets and political environments to successfully create viable activities that contribute to revitalization. The paper demonstrates that temporary uses can be valuable contributors to revitalization and emphasizes the importance of for providing an avenue within planning for temporary uses. However, these cases also reveal some of the potential drawbacks of temporary uses including entrenchment of these uses frustrating attempts to develop permanent uses (Portland), cooptation of temporary uses crowding out small entrepreneurs (Chicago) and transition of temporary uses to permanent uses requiring substantial time and skill (Detroit). They also reinforce that the process of formalizing informal uses can be a new avenue for the exercise of power and the reallocation of resources.
Book of proceedings: Annual AESOP Congress, Definite Space – Fuzzy Responsibility, Prague, 13-16th July, 2015
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