To be sure, the leading “creative class” cities have much to recommend them, and some of them, such as Portland and Boston, have registered impressive rises in their per capita income in recent years. But over the past decade, most “cool cities” have not been enjoying particularly strong employment or population growth; in the last decade, the populations of cities like Charlotte, Houston, Atlanta, and Nashville grew by 20 percent or more, at least four times as rapidly as New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Chicago. This trend toward less dense, more affordable cities is as evident in the most recent census numbers than a decade. ...
... Of course, some these ascendant cities now are sprouting their own “hip” neighborhoods. But these regions also accommodate far faster growth in rapidly expanding, family-friendly suburbs and exurbs. Equally important, none, including “creative class” hotspots Raleigh and Austin, are dense, transit-centered places of the kind urbanists suggest create economic vibrancy and attract the largest number of migrations.
In fact both Raleigh and Austin are both very low-density regions with only compact urban pockets surrounded by vast suburban communities. Take a walk in downtown Raleigh sometime; about five minutes from the densest central areas and you find yourself on tree-lined streets with nice single-family houses, essentially, older suburbs. Austin, too, is a relatively low-density place surrounded by the kind of suburban sprawl detested by Floridians; this is also the case with Charlotte, Atlanta, and other fast-growing cities.
I'm not cherry-picking the narrative to advance my own discussion of urban density. This is the battle Richard Florida is choosing to fight. His first salvo via Twitter:
My buddy Joel Kotkin gets it wrong again. 1).Creativity & skills in dense CITIES drive growth.2)And they raise wages overall for all groups.
Really, Richard Florida gets it wrong again. Florida has a bad habit of conflating residential and occupational density. I have no doubt that Kotkin is talking about residential density. As for Florida, he can't keep his story straight.
In Austin, you can have creativity and skills in a dense urban core as well as suburban sprawl. Occupational density drives growth and raises wages overall for all groups. Gentrification does not.
When Florida fires back, we will be faced with a false choice. Do we embrace Kotkin suburbanism or Creative Classism? We can have Manhattan without Park Slope. Hispanics needn't flee to Schenectady or Reading in order to advance the Innovation Economy. Somewhere in the middle is Rust Belt Chic.