Urban Hipster Alert! Black-on-Black Bean Boot.
Urban Hipster Alert! Black-on-Black Bean Boot.
Density as a tool for creating an innovative city
In preparation for Carol Coletta’s talk today in Fort Wayne, IN, I watched this TEDxGrandRapids talk where she attributed the density of young, educated professionals living in and around central business districts as an ingredient for innovation. This is primarily due to the unintended meetings and collaborations that occur when young entrepreneurial types (sometimes well-experienced folks too) share ideas across disciplines.
This analysis seems like a perfectly reasonable scenario - density in population can only increase the likelihood of these types of interactions.
However, is it a necessity for one to live in the city core to be innovative? If we look at the three-pronged concept of “Live, Work, Play”, the “Live” is only one component of the overall formula. I concede that those who live in and around the urban core increase the odds of these encounters just by performing all three components in the core, but can’t communities still take advantage of the suburban residents who “Work” and “Play” in the urban center? Until the world is so over-populated that dense, urban cities cover the Earth, there will be those who reside in satellite neighborhoods. I contend that we can and should include all who participate in any of the three activities in creating a more vibrant urban center by looking for opportunities to create unique, innovative, and DENSE collaborative environments for living, working, and playing.
Fort Wayne, Indiana, has somewhat-regular 5pm block parties in downtown that are organized by and attended by young professionals that work in and around the downtown area. It works well because it catches the downtown worker leaving work, before they begin the commute home. Another example is the Social Media Breakfast Fort Wayne event conducted monthly, where dozens of local professionals from varied backgrounds meet to discuss topics related to blogging, online content, and social media tools. These are exactly the types of environments that spark the collaborative behavior that allow cities to grow and remain relevant.
What are other places, ideas, or events that can host the interactions needed for creating density …. and increasing the chance of fostering the next innovation?
This story from The New York Times reports:
National Association of Home Builders suggested that the nation’s 80 million millennials wanted an urban living environment rather than McMansions and Miracle-Gro
However, the same article also claims that maybe millennials don’t want to live in urban areas, since 54 percent report that they currently live in the suburbs.
Could it be that these kids are just living at home with their parents in the suburbs?
Just a little teamwork for a beautiful block.
Building a Better Block.
To make a better block, you could spend millions, hire outside consultants, and finish in a few years at best.
OR—you could tear a page from the book of volunteers in Oak Cliff, Texas in Dallas.
Spend $1,000, round up a gang of concerned citizens and finish in a weekend.
Take the 8 minutes to watch this video—it’s worth it to see how much change can happen for so little time and money. They’ve transformed their block with floating bike lanes, slowed vehicular traffic, outdoor seating and dining, active streetscapes, and above all, happy people meeting and talking with neighbors. These volunteers have brought vibrancy back to their block.
So—who will be the first in Northeast Indiana to make a better block? Let us know if you are up for the challenge!
I want to write down nearly everything that Aaron Renn says. Particularly the title of this post.
He nails it. Why does Rust Belt Chic exist? Because those who are embracing the lifestyle never knew a city that wasn’t lost. Artists are moving into abandoned buildings, setting up studios and living space. Because they never saw the building as it shone and sparkled like new. Their parents may have, grandparents surely. But to them, the building has always been an empty canvas. There are no lost dreams or decay.
It is what it is. But don’t you think it can be better? That’s the though process, I assume. (I’m not an artist converting buildings, but I’m young. I’ve seen lost cities. I know how to imagine them better.)
To me, driving over the rivers through industrial towns always is emotional. To feel what has been won and lost there, in those brick buildings and smoke stacks. But our generation did not have to watch the death. We’ve only been around long enough to realize that rebirth is possible.
No wonder we have a different perspective.
Back in the day, swagger meant strut; to walk with an air. Today, swagger has a connotation a bit more tough. A bit more edgy. So when the Urbanophile talks about Indy’s swagger, what does he really mean?
What Indy needs to do create that brand image is to stop being embarrassed at what it is and start showing a little pride and swagger about it. What could be more hillbilly than ten gallon hats and the whole Texas schtick? Yet they are perhaps the most proud people of what they are of any state – and it has worked well for them. Indy seems embarrassed of anything that has a whiff of Southern, blue collar, or rural influence, but the fastest growing cities in America are in the South, where they are proud of their heritage. Why can’t Indy show the same pride and swagger? I’m not talking about the naive boosterism that is so prominent in some circles. That really is embarrassing. But rather about setting a lofty goal and ambition, based clearly in the local culture. A good mixture of high ambition, bravado, and audacity, all in a local wrapper.
Trust me, I like the strut. I like the swagger. I love the pride. There are many, many places that need a similar attitude adjustment. Embrace yourself, place — and the people who live there. The key: “setting a lofty goal and ambition, based clearly in the local culture.” No city, no region will ever be something it is not. It can only be a truer, more enthusiastic version of itself.
I think there is a huge advantage for the young people of the cities to show those who have been there forever how to strut. How to put the edgy in swagger. The young ones have never known how bad the core of Indianapolis was in the 1970s, so they have no reason to be against it. They have nothing to be embarrassed about. The young professionals who have stayed in a city have the moral obligation, in my eyes, to become the loudest, proudest advocates for what they see the city to be. Their impressions of the city are most truthful, most relevant and probably the most honest. In cities that struggle with pride across the US—ask the Xs and Ys what is so great about this place. You’ll find at least a little pride, a little honesty, and a new swagger.