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Richard Florida (Rise of the Creative Class) Moving to Toronto

King of Kensington

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What is the "creative class" anyway? Doesn't it ultimately just come down to people in professional occupations?

One problem I have with Florida is that there is a finite limit to how many so-called "creative class" hubs there can be and there is in a sense a hierarchy of cities that is pretty hard to undo. It's not as if Buffalo could improve its lot by plugging itself as "San Francisco on Lake Erie."

Also some of these "thriving" cities aren't exactly bastions of social liberalism and tolerance - i.e., Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston.
 

ganjavih

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Perhaps some of these aren't world class enough for everyone, but I've never thought of grandiosity as something most Torontonians hanker for, quite frankly. We're fairly low key, but a major creative and economic force nonetheless.

That's really my point. Toronto has enough going for it to keep me interested but for the average Joe who compares it with other large cities that aren't so "low key" and that have a sense of grandiosity, it's easy to feel that there's something lacking.
 

AlvinofDiaspar

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One problem I have with Florida is that there is a finite limit to how many so-called "creative class" hubs there can be and there is in a sense a hierarchy of cities that is pretty hard to undo. It's not as if Buffalo could improve its lot by plugging itself as "San Francisco on Lake Erie."

Indeed there are, and the hierachy you've mentioned does come into play. I suspect that a city will have great difficulty in becoming a creative hub if there was no existing critical mass of creativity to start off with - and as such it favours existing large urban centres or university towns - the rust belt need not apply, ditto the deep south.

Also some of these "thriving" cities aren't exactly bastions of social liberalism and tolerance - i.e., Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston.

But I guess they are relatively liberal, compared to the hinterland. Beyond that - these cities might be thriving, but not exactly at the cutting edge of anything.

AoD
 

Canuck

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I think ganjavih is right on this. Toronto is a great city, but doesn't really have the big defining image to go with it.

Personally I think the answer is quite simple (simple if the funds could be found). All we really need is a continuous advertising campaign highlighting this city - both to visitors and maybe even a bit of internal promotion.

The great things about Toronto are still a bit of a secret. No doubt members of this forum could rattle off dozens of great sights, tastes and sounds, but we need more than half-hearted campaigns every time there's some kind of disaster (SARS, etc.). I think we should have a tax on hotel rooms - enough for us to really get out there and blanket the world with the word. We need to make more people aware of the city, and move those with a less-than-favourable opinion towards a more moderate or positive view.
 

BobBob

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^ Or a big Hollywood movie openly set here, with the city as one of the stars. Hugh Grant's fictional Notting Hill residence is one of London's greatest tourist attractions. And that's London!
 

Hydrogen

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^Should that happen, we must insist that UT members be worked into the cast - either as leads or as background.

Anyone wanna cast themselves into this epic blockbuster touting the delights of our low-key, demi-world-class burg?

I'll take a minor role: the guy out for long, late night walks who can be seen chatting it up with a Timmy's server out for a smoke.
 

Ahab

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They say that Woody Allen's Manhattan was his love letter to the NYC. If someone of Woody Allen's reputation produced a similar love letter for Toronto, it would definitely attract a lot of attention.

However, I would cringe if I saw such obvious Toronto shots in the movie as the CN Tower and Nathan Philips Square.

Instead, here's my brief list of places that need to be in the movie:

  • Bloor Viaduct
  • Toronto Island Ferry
  • Bloor Yorkville
  • Cabbagetown
 

junctionist

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The tower would have to be there, but it would only have to be in the background. Alternately, it could have a brief spot. We don't have to make it prominent, just noticeable. It is an icon and is destined to be a classic like the Eiffel Tower is today. Both cities are worthwhile visits without their towers, but they do reinforce identity.
 

mjl08

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Wasn't sure where else to put this, but thought it was an interesting critique of Florida.


The problem with Richard Florida
Jonathan Kay, National Post

Richard Florida -- an American born scholar who now pontificates from a well-endowed perch at the University of Toronto -- may well be the world's most influential living urban theorist. But he should also be regarded as an expert on another subject: the art of becoming famous. His critically acclaimed theory about the rejuvenation of American cities is not only clever and original; by a wonderful coincidence, it also holds inherent appeal for the arty cultural gatekeepers who anoint public intellectuals.

To become economically and sociologically successful, Florida argues, cities must amp up their "urban metabolism" by attracting a "creative class." (The latter phrase -- Florida's version of Malcolm Gladwell's "tipping point" -- appears in the titles of no fewer than three of the man's books.) Members of this class include artists, Internet types, writers, academics, business visionaries, medical researchers, tech super-nerds and "high bohemians" (let your imagination run wild).

Gays and lesbians figure heavily in Florida's thesis: To the extent creatives aren't gay themselves, they tend to be so gay-friendly they view the rainbow flag as a proxy for general enlightenment and livability. One of the best ways for cities to attract the best and the brightest, Florida therefore argues, is to promote a vibrant gay presence -- something the scholar measures with his self-created (and slightly creepy-sounding) "gay index."

Skeptical as I am about the power of Florida's army of laptop-wielding theatre directors and Web-commerce consultants to transform our cities, there seems to be a germ of truth to his theory. The most desirable cities in North America (from my point of view, at least) -- Manhattan, San Francisco, Boston, Toronto, Montreal -- are all teeming with people who'd look very much at home opposite John Hodgman in one of those annoying/ hilarious Macads.

Then again, since I'mexactly the sort of smug "creative" whom Florida fawningly sets up as the lynchpin of urban civilization, I confess to divided loyalties --as should all the other media types who have collectively declared Florida the second coming of Jane Jacobs. By writing books for upscale, overeducated, downtown-dwelling, gay-friendly urbanites about how upscale, overeducated, downtown-dwelling, gay-friendly urbanites are the most important people on the planet, Richard Florida has brilliantly merged subject and audience into one.

But this month's issue of The Atlantic, in which Florida has the cover story, set me wondering: Has the man gone too far -- even for snobs like me?

In his 8,000-word manifesto, How the crash will reshape America, Florida burbles in eschatological tones, arguing that the current recession marks nothing less than "the end of a whole way of life." Just as the Great Depression led to the rise of suburbs, and the malaise of the 1970s sowed the seeds of the Sun Belt, he argues, the crash of 2008-09 must yield a new high-density urban landscape designed to Florida's own revolutionary specifications.

"Every phase or epoch of capitalism has its own distinct geography," writes Florida, summoning a curiously

Marxist tone. The suburbs and the highway may have been well-suited to the industrial economy of the post-war era. But in this "next chapter of American economic history," they will be seen as embarrassing relics.

Like any true revolutionary, Florida sees the sunny side of upheaval and cataclysm. "The foreclosure crisis creates a real opportunity," he writes. "The housing bubble was the ultimate expression, and perhaps the last gasp, of an economic system some 80 years in the making, and now well past its 'sell-by' date. The bubble encouraged massive, unsustainable growth in places where land was cheap and the real estate economy dominant. It encouraged low-density sprawl, which is ill-fitted to a creative, postindustrial economy."

Florida's policy prescription: shrunken suburbs, smaller houses, denser urban cores, less home-ownership and more renting. "In short," he concludes, "it will be a more concentrated geography, one that allows more people to mix more freely and interact more efficiently in a discrete number of dense, innovative mega-regions and creative cities."

That sort of electric writing sounds wonderful at first blush: Who doesn't crave cities that are "innovative," "free," "efficient," "creative" and "mega"?

But once the revolutionary thrill of Florida's prose wears off, take a sober look around any big city worth living in and ask yourself this: Where exactly are all these new arrivals going to live? In most downtown areas, spaces available for infill development are minimal. Match Florida's ideology to reality, and it dawns on you that what he's really getting at is boosting population density by knocking over single-family dwellings and putting up apartment blocks to warehouse foreclosed-upon suburban refugees.

Again -- this is the sort of plan that folks like me can be expected to instinctively embrace: I've been living this sort of overpriced, cheek-by-jowl, 1,500-square-foot dollhouse urban life in Toronto and New York for the last 15 years. Why shouldn't everyone else go in for big city life, too?

But then the realization hits me that it isn't for love of traffic that so many millions of North Americans have moved out to the suburbs: They're looking for big houses, little leagues, decent schools and an opportunity to raise large families. And yes, they know all about the wonderful creative people (gay or otherwise) they could be rubbing elbows with if only they slapped down half-a-million for a charming downtown row house, put their kids in bunk beds and commuted by bike to their dot-com ad agency. It just so happens that this isn't the life they want.

All around North America, millions of bankrupt families are surrendering their homes and moving into cramped apartments. But pace Richard Florida, these aren't revolutionaries; and this isn't a revolution, just a series of personal financial tragedies -- tragedies that will be reversed, I suspect, as soon as Florida's unwilling conscripts can scratch together enough money for a fresh down payment on the American dream.

jkay@nationalpost.com

http://www.nationalpost.com/story.html?id=1371648
 

CDL.TO

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Get a few professional geographers/planners/urban sociologists/public policy people in a room together, mention Richard Florida, and watch the sparks fly.
 

MisterF

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That National Post column is less a critique of Richard Florida than a rant about urban living.

In most downtown areas, spaces available for infill development are minimal.
One needs only to observe the recent boom in Toronto to know that this is entirely false. North American cities have plenty of room for infill.
 

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