[Prospective] Joel Kotkin against an urban revitalization panacea
City scholar Joel Kotkin argues against the idea of an urban revitalization panacea in an interview for Metropolis Mag. He is critical of Richard Florida's book The Rise of the Creative Class</a (Florida argues that cities attracting hip young "creatives" will fare best in the twenty-first century.).
A piece of Florida's theory is correct. There is a niche for these kinds of boutique cities, but the idea that there's this formula that other cities can follow is shortsighted. He never addresses the issue of affordability. I do a lot of focus groups. When you talk to young people what you find is that many things influence their decision on where to live. It's true that people in their early twenties are interested in cool urban amenities. Then something really bad happens to them: they turn thirty. And when they hit thirty they start thinking, Well, do I want to live in a Motel 6 and pay $3,000 a month? Can I get a job? Maybe I'd like to get married and have children.
One of the worst aspects of the Florida book is that he takes the 1997--2000 period and extrapolates it out as this new paradigm. His work has become an excuse for cities to say the way we're going to pursue development is by creating entertainment districts. Let's show we have more brewpubs than some other place. It doesn't work that way. Jane Jacobs had it right: a great metropolitan economy doesn't lure a middle class--it creates one. (...) How do cities prevent their declines? There are several ways. A lot of it is just blocking and tackling: reducing crime, improving transportation, providing education and public safety
This is certainly true:
Recently I visited Paris, and the only vitality I saw there was when I got out into the ethnic neighborhoods, the African neighborhoods. The term museum city is not a compliment.
Kotkin also believed in suburbs:
How do you see America's urban landscape evolving in the next ten years? The next great frontier is going to be the urbanization of suburbia. We will see the development of more urban villages. You have too many people who cannot afford to live any place near work. Land pressures, environmental pressures, NIMBY-ism, and people's exhaustion with the commute will lead to the creation of denser, more self-contained environments.