A whole raft of studies have recently promulgated that pervasive commercial forces are eroding the publicness and cultural plurality of urban public spaces. Town Centre Management Companies, Public-Private Partnerships, Joint Ventures, City Development Companies and Business Improvement Districts, to name just a clutch of mechanisms, are being utilised throughout the UK to improve neglected urban landscapes. As their names suggest, they provide the platform for the private sector to take a greater responsibility for the design, management, ownership and governance of urban public space. The paradox, however, is how in a business world, dominated by global flows of capital, can place quality improvements best cater for the needs of local people and diverse communities of interest? This article identifies the links between cultural activity and economic vitality, making the case that the relationship between each of these objectives is not necessarily dichotomous but can be mutually reinforcing. The arguments contained here are based on a larger research project; Public Space Vitality, jointly commissioned by Culture North East and One NorthEast Regional Development Agency
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