Tag Archives: Richard Florida

Richard Florida Questions Shinking Cities’ Strategy

I think this is the most important article I have seen on the Rust Belt urban condition since this blog began.

Kain Benfield of the Natural Resources Defense Council has raised questions about the wisdom of mass demolitions in “shrinking cities.” In this article, he points out that leading urban thinker Richard Florida has joined him in this perspective.

Detroit: a wonderful place for agriculture.

Detroit: a wonderful place for agriculture?

Benfield makes the point that Detroit, Cleveland and other shrinking cities are being hollowed out, not by regional population loss, but by sprawl. Returning urban areas to quasi-rural will simply lengthen commute times as investment and population continue to flow to the periphery.

Metro Detroit, the poster child for these supposedly shrinking places, actually grew in population from 1990 to 2003; the population did decline between 2000 and 2008, but only by six-tenths of one percent.  The real problem is that the footprint of its suburbs was allowed to grow during that period, at the expense of the central city.  With demolition and conversion of urban land to neo-rural tracts, that pattern will only be exacerbated, with serious consequences for transportation emissions and the surrounding landscape.

I think this is a very, very good point. From a regional perspective, it just doesn’t make sense to invest a bunch of resources to convert city land into agricultual use while in the meantime investing a bunch of money in the exurbs to convert agricultural land into housing.

How can we stop the destructive pattern of outmigration? The problem is in Cleveland is there is just no political will for this. Everyone seems content to live in a suburban bubble 6 miles from urban apocalypse.

Someone told me yesterday that there is a 24-year difference in the life expectancy of someone who lives in Cleveland’s inner-city Hough neighborhood and someone who lives in the nearby suburb of Lyndhurst. 24 years! Why is this kind of inequality tolerated in Cleveland? Fear? Racism? Complacency? Cosy ties between politicians and developers?

Our cities need to stand up for themselves. Their problem isn’t caused so much by de-industrialization as by their own suburbs. Urban agriculture, to me, is a conciliatory strategy because it doesn’t address the true cause of urban problems it only treats the symptoms.

Check out what the city of Cleveland has done to its now popular entertainment district. My friend Matt sent me these photos. And he asked, what was gained?

Cleveland's Warehouse District today

Cleveland's Warehouse District today


Cleveland's Warehouse District 1960

Cleveland's Warehouse District 1960s


Filed under Art, Featured, sprawl, the environment, Urban Planning

The Future of the City

The Atlantic magazine has a special section on ‘The Future of the City.’

There’s  lot of really interesting stuff here, from local currencies to Robert Moses.


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Filed under Good Ideas, Real Estate, regionalism, Rust Belt Blogs, Urban Planning

Urban podcasting

Check out the new Metro Matters podcast, from the folks at Next American City magazine and the Brookings Institution.

If you listen to this inaugural edition, you can hear about everything from the stimulus, to US exports, Richard Florida and manufacturing. There’s a good bit of Rust-Belt related discussion as well.


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Filed under Good Ideas, regionalism, The Media

Richard Florida: Your City is Hopeless, That will be $35,000

It seems everyone who’s interested in cities has an opinion about Richard Florida.

I’ve always had it in for him, since he wrote, “Who’s Your City?,” a book which instructed readers which city they should live in based on personal characteristics, as if that was a rational way to choose a place to live.

When I was working at a newspaper in Toledo a coworker of mine began researching “Who’s Your City” for an article because Toledo was listed as the 12th (13th, 14th?) best mid-sized city to be a committed gay couple. The story had to be killed midway through, however, because the margin of error on the statistic was approximately 50 percent.

Florida, looking appropriately creative

Florida, looking appropriately creative

Well, Florida is gearing to go to the presses again in April with, “The Great Reset,” in which he argues that the recession has fundamentally reshaped the economic landscape. This tome may be more controversial because of its premise that the new economy will divide the country into geographic winners and losers.

It also happens that many of these “losers” paid Florida a hefty fee to explain how their cities could be made Meccas for the hip, highly-educated population that is so essential to prosperity, according to Florida’s teachings.

In an article in the American Prospect titled “The Ruse of the Creative Class,” Washington Post writer Alec Macgillis takes Florida to task for his assertion that “ultimately, we can’t stop the decline of some places, and that we would be foolish to try.”

Florida, who is arguably the country’s best known urban thinker, made a name for himself with his 2004 book “The Rise of the Creative Class,” in which he argued that highly mobile, “creative workers” in growth industries would determine the economic prosperity of cities by congregating and developing knowledge clusters.

The book was so popular, the cities of Cleveland, Toledo, Baltimore, Rochester, Green Bay, Des Moines, Elmira, New York, and others lined up to pay Florida a $35,000 speaking fee to share his insights on how to improve their attractiveness to young professionals.

His ideas inspired Elmira to install “Poetry Posts” around town in hopes of developing retail to serve the creative class. It also inspired the state of Michigan to launch its “Cool Cities” initiative, an ambarrassing failure.

In the AP article, Florida denies any wrongdoing.

“I’ve never tried to sugarcoat the message to any of them,” he says. “I’ve given them the facts … about what they were up against. I never tried to give them false hope. I encouraged them to work on their assets, but I tried to be honest and objective in helping them engage their problems. I hope they don’t feel let down.”

This is directly from the article: In February 2008 he told the residents of Sackville, New Brunswick, population 5,000, that they were in a “cosmopolitan country town” with obvious advantages over Toronto. In Louisville, Florida held up the Louisville Slugger museum as a potential creative-class magnet.

I’m not going to rewrite the article in it’s entirety, you should read it. Here’s the link again.

I just pulled this one little golden nugget out for you to chew on till then. It’s a quote from Eric Cedo, director of Create Detroit.

“I believe Richard has a real strong pulse on a certain segment of the population that can move freely around … but I’m staying. I’m not going. He keeps missing one of the most fundamental points, which is that there is a remnant of people who aren’t going to leave — and it’s because of the struggle that we’re going to stay.”



Filed under Brain Drain, Economic Development, Headline

FT: Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville “A Diamond in the Rust”

This recent Financial Times story is singing the praises of Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville, an up and coming trendy neighborhood.

The challenge: “attracting new, affluent buyers while also retaining ‘mom-and-pop retailers’ and keeping house prices low will be difficult.”

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Filed under Economic Development, Real Estate