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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Crawlable Urbanism: Cities Are for Kids, Too

By Tanya Snyder
Published: August 13, 2013
DC.StreetsBlog.org

All of a sudden, I feel like all anyone is talking about is whether it’s a good idea to raise kids in the city. I’m raising a kid in the city. I feel great about it when she has a blast on the back of the bike, or makes friends on the bus, or gets excited about pressing the beg button at the corner. I feel a little less certain when we toddle down the sidewalk and come upon guys peeing on the dumpster or passed out on the stoop. When I look at the test scores for our neighborhood schools, I get a knot in my stomach.

A few days ago I visited my friends’ new home in Potomac, a wealthy, second-ring suburb with enviable schools. Their new house sits on two acres with a pool and a basketball court. After a few hours sipping beer in their landscaped yard and watching our children frolic in the pool, I had to do some mental gymnastics to remind myself why I didn’t pick this path for myself.

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Hip, Urban, Middle-Aged

By Nancy Keates
Published: August 13, 2013
Wall Street Journal

Jennifer Williams says she often feels like the oldest person on her block. When the 52-year-old corporate communications executive sets off for work in a suit, carrying a briefcase, with her hair in a bun, she is usually surrounded by young people with tattoos and rainbow crocheted skull caps. “It’s like mom is coming in for a visit,” she says.

That doesn’t bother Ms. Williams. In fact, such diversity is exactly what she was looking for when she bought a condo in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn two years ago, after living in what she calls the “dead zone” of the Upper East Side of Manhattan. “I find it endlessly fascinating and interesting. I wanted to be somewhere with energy and life.”

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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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How Historic Architecture Can Anchor Economic Development

By Kaid Benfield
Published: April 29, 2013
atlanticcities.com

It’s ridiculously easy to think about the benefits of historic preservation in immensely walkable Providence, Rhode Island. I’m not sure I’ve seen a better collection of downtown historic architecture this side of New Orleans. Elsewhere there are fine smaller historic downtowns, of course, such as in Annapolis, and wonderful urban historic districts (frequently close to downtowns) such as Old Salem in North Carolina and Over-the-Rhine in Cincinnati.  But in Providence, it’s the downtown itself that practically oozes with dignified charm.

I have a feeling that, as was the case with many fine older buildings in my hometown, Providence’s splendid architectural legacy remains intact because, when people were tearing down historic properties a few decades ago and putting up newer but mediocre buildings in their places, Providence’s economy simply couldn’t support the new stuff. So the splendid older buildings remain today, available to be given new life by creative-class businesses.

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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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