How East Coast Tech Startups Became a Downtown Phenomenon

By Richard Florida
Published: August 14, 2013
atlanticcities.com

The East Coast has long lagged behind Silicon Valley and the Bay Area as a center for startups and venture capital investment.

The Route 128 corridor outside Boston remained a distant second to the Bay Area in the 70s and 80s because its stodgy, hierarchical culture was less able to adapt to new technology, University of California at Berkley’s AnnaLee Saxenian has argued. Further south, New York City has been a source of venture capital finance since the industry’s birth, but it mainly exported these resources to startups in the Bay Area and Route 128. And Washington, D.C., the southern end of the productive Boston-Washington corridor, has largely been known as a government town, with its modest tech scene clustered in the Virginia and Maryland suburbs.

But the past several years have seen a substantial shift. New York has risen dramatically as a venture capital center; venture capital and startup activity in greater Boston have shifted from the suburbs to urban neighborhoods in the center city and around MIT. Washington D.C., has transformed into a growing startup hub as well.

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If You Build It, They Will Come: How Cleveland Lured Young Professionals Downtown

By Sophie Quinton
Published: August 2, 2013
atlanticcities.com

When the Maron family decided to redevelop an entire city block in downtown Cleveland, the area was so blighted no restaurateur would lease space there. A decade later, the East Fourth neighborhood is home to Food Network personalities, a House of Blues, and free Saturday yoga classes. Café-style seating spills into the pedestrian-only street. Apartments on the block are fully leased, and a 100-unit building under construction across the street has already reached full capacity.

The success of East Fourth Street in once-struggling Cleveland was something few people would have anticipated 20 years ago. It took years of collaboration between developers, businesses, local institutions, and government, but today downtown Cleveland is taking off—and giving the old Rust Belt city a future. There wasn’t a market for urban living in Cleveland until developers like the Marons built places where young professionals would want to be.

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Everyday Urbanism: Why We are All Urbanists

By Katrina Johnston-Zimmerman
Published: July 30, 2013
Sustainable Cities Collective

I call myself an urbanist, but what does that really mean? Being an urbanist is not something that requires a rigidly defined body of knowledge. There is no degree for urbanism, no certificate or qualifying test. Urbanists come from a myriad of disciplines: sociologists, anthropologists, geographers, economists, city planners (and other such “-ists” and “-ers” I’m sure I’ve missed). While these degrees are good for other things of course, they are by no means necessary to be an urbanist. It seems then the people who decide to call themselves urbanists are simply those that are united by a passion for urban environments and have some sort of urban-related knowledge – which therefore could technically be anyone. In a world where more than half of all people now live in cities, and with no degree for it, I wonder – where are all the urbanists?

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Why smarter land use can help cities attract and retain young adults

By Kaid Benfield
Published: February 5, 2013
Better! Cities & Towns

Here’s the nutshell:  20th-century land use won’t help your city attract and retain 21st-century people.  It just won’t.  This is because the lifestyle values of the Millennial generation, sometimes called GenY, are markedly different from those of previous generations when they were the same age as the Millennials are now (roughly 18 to 34).

The prolific urban observer Richard Florida has been telling us this in various ways for years, as he researches and charts the shifting economic geography of the US.  (I’ve gotten to know Rich over the last year and consider him a kindred spirit on these issues.)  Rich believes that the housing and finance industry collapse of the last few years signals the end of one economic era and the beginning of another, though I’m sure he would be the first to tell us that we’re in a messy and hard-to-pin-down transition.  But he is clear that the new economy – based less on manufacturing and established institutions, more on creativity, entrepreneurship, connectedness and interaction – will prosper best in places suited to a new kind of lifestyle, one that has already emerged in leading cities.

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The Lost Downtown Demographic

By Aascot Holt
Published: February 5, 2013
Sustainable Cities Collective

Teens and young adults want to go out with their friends, and they like to stay out as late as possible. That’s a fact of life. But where do most of these teens and young people spend their time? Preferably somewhere they can park their hand-me-down, four-wheeled, newfound freedom machine: the automobile. But, their weekend nights usually doesn’t get far past the parking lot. Minors aged fifteen to twenty are the lost downtown demographic.

Most of the time the only places that allow minors under twenty-one on their premises after 10pm are movie theaters, gas stations, and the occasional fro-yo hut. If there aren’t any other options, most teens choose public places where nobody is admitted past dark, like sport courts, skateboard parks, and playgrounds. Downtown is where the majority of nightlife lies for those over twenty-one, and it needs to be a place where minors can enjoy themselves too.

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Why Is ‘Authenticity’ So Central to Urban Culture?

By Richard Greenwald
Published: January 31, 2013
theatlanticcities.com

One of the worst things you can publicly call someone today is a fake. The controversy surrounding Beyonce’s “singing” of the National Anthem at Obama’s inauguration demonstrates the point and shows, according to the Washington Post, “how confused our culture has become over its wobbly standards of authenticity.” We are, in a word, obsessed.

It is little wonder, then, that we seek out spaces, food, and clothes that affirm a sense of realness and rootedness. The more alike we become, the thirstier we are for perceived individuality. And in crowded cities, being an individual means being rooted in modern notions of authenticity.

Cases in point can be seen in almost every moderately hip or gentrifying city neighborhood. It is clearly evident in certain parts of Brooklyn. The Brooklyn Flea is in many ways an archetype for the consumption of modern, urban authenticity. The Flea features hundreds of vendors of antique furniture, vintage clothing, and crafts by local artisans. Part of its charm is its curation of things from the past (antiques and vintage clothing) and a hand-crafted and local present.

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Does Human Capital Tend to Cluster in Center Cities or the Suburbs?

By Richard Florida
Published: January 14, 2013
theatlanticcities.com

It’s now conventional wisdom that human capital (what economists call educated people) is a key factor in the growth of cities and metro regions. Cities are engines of economic development, and the skilled people are the high-powered fuel that drives them.

Most studies of the role of human capital in regional economic growth track its effects on and across metro regions. But metros vary widely in size, shape, and spatial and demographic compositions; human capital doesn’t always cluster in the same places at the same densities. The revitalization of the urban center in cities like New York, San Francisco, Boston, and others has fueled in-migrations of more skilled and affluent people. Other cities, like Los Angeles and Detroit, still suffer from the proverbial “hole in the donut” effect, with their more educated, higher income populations spread out across their suburbs while their urban centers lag.

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