Brock Dickinson, who works for Millier, Dickinson and Blais, Canada's largest economic development consultant firm, said a number of industrial cities in this country and the U.S. have seen a "hollowing out" of their population in recent years."Twenty years ago, Detroit had a population of two million people and it's now down to about 800,000," he said.Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Buffalo and Windsor, Ont., have all seen similar patterns of de-population that have been brought on by the decline of traditional industries and by the push for people to move to the suburbs, where there are larger homes with larger backyards."That made sense in an era where gas was cheap and the cost of living was relatively low ... but then increasingly, those sorts of realities that led to the kind of sprawling communities of the past are not what's facing communities anymore," Dickinson said."A lot of communities are anticipating a return to more urban living as the cost of owning and operating a house in the suburbs rises, as the cost of operating a car rises and as traffic congestion increases."Dickinson said cities such as Pittsburgh are going through a re-urbanization as it aims to attract more technology and knowledge-based jobs as a way to allure the type of worker who prefers to live in the urban core.
Dickinson puts a curious spin on the Pittsburgh revitalization narrative. More residents within the city limits is a pressing concern. However, I'm not sure if it was (or is) the centerpiece of the redevelopment strategy. I understand the policy as a move away from a dependence on manufacturing.
No doubt, the Pittsburgh comeback story is changing. The city is increasingly cast as a best practice example of attracting Generation Y knowledge workers. The characterization is both premature and prescient. Fiction, not facts, drives talent migration.