Richard Florida sees City and Suburban Lines Blurring in the Third “Great Reset”

2.12.13 | The economic distress of the last five or six years is not the only upheaval wracking the nation, according to Richard Florida, who suggests that the sharp delineations between city and suburbs are blurring as part of a third “Great Reset.”

A Great Reset is “more than just the crisis itself; it is the fundamental changes that follow crisis—changes not just in how we make and consume goods, but in how we live and work,” Florida says at the Urban Land Institute’s Urbanland blog. The first such reset followed the panic of the 1870s and created industrial cities; the second began after the Great Depression of the 1930s and coalesced in the rise of suburbia during the 1950s and ‘60s.

“We are living through such a Great Reset today. It is a generational event that will take decades to fully shake out. It’s hard to know exactly what form it will ultimately take, but there have been some clear trends.

“One such trend is the resurrection of our cities.”

Younger generations and the “creative class” have been flocking to city centers, driving a greater demand for rental properties instead of ownership, and seeking transportation alternatives to driving. (As we noted previously, you can’t surf the web while driving, but you certainly can while riding the “L”).

Regions must adjust or face a steady “brain drain” to regions that recognize and tap this by addressing the needs of all demographic groups making decisions about where to live and work, Florida says.

The Great Reset is not just about the intensification of cities but their extensification, as great metropolitan areas morph into even larger megaregions. Our suburbs need to be reimagined and rebuilt as more walkable, human-scale, mixed-use places. They are the next arena and next agenda for large-scale place making, as Christopher Leinberger, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and Ellen Dunham Jones, architecture professor at Georgia Institute of Technology, and June Williamson of the City College of New York have noted.

. . .

The most successful metro areas ensure that they are rich in options that will attract and retain residents of all ages: transitional, ethnic “urban mosaic” neighborhoods, where young professionals cluster alongside immigrants and the working poor; “hipster havens,” those formerly gritty districts that are most notable now for their music and art scenes and café cultures; and “designer digs,” where wealthier urbanites can live in elegantly renovated apartments and townhouses. Though goodly numbers of retirees and empty nesters are still drawn to condo communities in warmer, drier climes, many are also attracted to college towns because of their cultural amenities, or to urban centers, where they can get around more easily.

Indeed, as we argued in this post, cities must also attend to its existing residents, many of whom are neither young nor able to afford the new housing and lifestyle features Florida frequently stresses. With an aging population that prefers to “age in place” (often in the suburbs), walkable, livable communities are even more necessary.

Because public places are important attractants within regions, the Project for Public Spaces has launched the Placemaking Leadership Council. The group’s first meeting will be April 11-12, 2013, in Detroit — “the North American capital of resilience” — focusing on “case studies, demonstration projects, publications, films, and social media as ways of demonstrating the true power in place.”  Another meeting will take place in June, in Stockholm, Sweden. The council’s efforts will target four points that “have the potential to transform cities if the focus is on the idea of place and Placemaking”:

    • Creating healthier communities and improving streets by redefining transportation planning;
    • Improving our built environment by advocating for people- and place-centric design through an architecture of place;
    • Supporting sustainable local economies by highlighting the central role of public markets;
    • And strengthening communities by creating new urban development models that re-orient our cities and towns around great multi-use destinations.

Council subcommittees will focus on three strategic themes: place governance, place capital, and healthy communities. If you’re interested in joining the Placemaking Leadership Council, go to the site and fill out a questionnaire by March 1, 2013.

Speaking of conferences and deadlines, March 1 is also the deadline to submit papers for the 12th Annual Hawaii International Conference on Social Sciences, May 29 to June 1 in Honolulu. Urban and regional planning, sustainable development, New Urbanism, and public administration are among the conference’s topic areas, so if spending a few spring days in Hawaii doesn’t sound too onerous, submit away. And good luck.

Photo/  beautifulcataya.

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