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.

Read the rest of the article here


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.

Read the rest of the article here


10 Most Awesome Guerrilla Gardens from Around the World

By Yasha Wallin
Published: August 3, 2013
Good.is

Guerrilla gardening has been used for ages as a means of protest, a way to beautify a neighborhood, cultivate food, and build community. It’s often done illegally, on appropriated land, and while some have equated it vandalism and trespassing, plenty of others argue it affects a locale positively, greening abandoned and forgotten spaces. While Johnny Appleseed could be considered our nation’s first guerrilla gardener, some recent examples of how people are using green interventions to better their unused public areas, show the phenomena growing. Here’s a round up of ten of our favorite guerrilla gardens—in many iterations—from around the world.

Read the rest of the article here


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?

Read the rest of the article here


The City Social: Why Urbanism Needs To Return To Observation

By Patrick McDonnell
Published: July 23, 2013
Good.is

Urbanism is about observation. Sociologist William “Holly” Whyte knew it and spent years recording and studying people and how they interacted with the city. Whyte’s quintessential 1980s documentary on New York’s plazas, The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces, is a standard of every Urban Planning Grad School experience, and its impact has yet to be replicated. Even today, whenever I come across a new plaza or public space, Holly Whyte’s nasally matter-of-fact narration and idiosyncratic phrases still ring in my ears, “People tend to sit where there are places to sit.”

Read the rest of the article here


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.

Read the rest of the article here


It’s Official: Downtowns Are Booming

By Nate Berg
Published: September 27, 2012
theatlanticcities.com

Big city downtowns are becoming people places – again or, for some, for the first time. New figures [PDF] out from the U.S. Census Bureau show that downtown areas saw huge jumps in population between 2000 and 2010. The biggest of these metro areas, those with populations of 5 million or more, saw a collective growth rate of more than 13 percent in the areas within two miles of city hall, a stand-in measurement that, for these purposes, designates “downtown.”

Read the rest of the article here