HOME   |  


August 19, 2011

It looks like a town, but...

Street view in Crocker ParkWalt Disney would be proud. As you walk down the street in Crocker Park, a so-called "lifestyle center" on the outskirts of Cleveland, it feels like you're in a small city.

A very clean, very pretty, very affluent small city.

I had to visit today because Apple only puts its stores in affluent places. You won't find an Apple store within the Cleveland city limits, I'm sad to say.

My Apple-related errand was a success: within 15 minutes I'd walked in for my pre-arranged meeting with a staff person at the "Genius Bar" and walked out with a new Airport Express wireless base station to replace my apparently wonky old one. I hit the streets of Crocker Park again.

What's wrong ?

Street in Crocker ParkA comparison to Disneyland is an obvious one. Once you pull into the place it feels like you've left suburbia for a charming small city with as much soul as the Stepford Wives.

I'll admit that it has a certain visual appeal. It's nicely laid-out, with pleasing architecture, lots of flowers, and plenty of opportunities to sit and relax.

But it gives me the creeps. The word that popped into my head was simulacrum. One of its definitions is "superficial likeness."

A more involved explanation of the concept by French philosopher Jean Baudrillard hits it right on the head for me: "...[it] masks the absence of a profound reality, where the simulacrum pretends to be a faithful copy, but it is a copy with no original."

Crocker Park (and places like it) pretend to be towns/cities but lack what actual towns & cities have: history, variety, diversity... as well as a certain amount of unpredictability, noise, and litter. If all you care about is shopping*, I guess that's OK.

*shopping at a franchised, branded, and advertised-up-to-here store. You won't find a mom-and-pop furniture store, or a deli run by an immigrant family who've poured their hearts, souls and life savings into a small storefront.

If your sense of adventure is defined by Cheesecake Factory and Crate and Barrel, by all means head out to Crocker Park. Otherwise, shop locally. We'll all benefit. The 3/50 Project explains:

For every $100 spent in locally owned independent stores, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll, and other expenditures. If you spend that in a national chain, only $43 stays here. Spend it online and nothing comes home.

Related articles

"Driving back to Cleveland yesterday I passed this Harley Davidson showroom that looked a lot like an old factory..."
New Old, Authentically Fake (March 13, 2010)

"Maybe that's too harsh. But it's definitely the architecture of consumption..."
Architecture of Greed (June 7, 2007)

"Here it is: America's industrial past, the dark hulking buildings of Cleveland's sole remaining steel mill in the Flats serving as backdrop for America's current industry: shopping..."
Steelyard Commons (March 27, 2007)

Top of page   |  small speech balloons



2007 April-December

2008 January-December

2009 January-December

2010 January-December

2011 January-May

Video icon Video  Audio Audio