Pick up any journal or publication focused on community development and you will find a countless number of articles, reports and studies all speaking to the impact of innovation on economic development. A pattern is emerging from this discussion: Do it or be left behind. But to truly create a nexus or hub there are a number of challenges that must be overcome. In this blog post, we will examine some of those issues, starting with why there is a clear reversal of suburban flight.
It seems clear, people enjoy other people and want more out of life than 10,000 Facebook friends. Millenniums tweeting other Millenniums while dining is not very fulfilling. We all want interaction and the informal connections that cities provide. A friend of mine described it as “propinquity.” The parents of us Baby Boomers thought suburban tract housing and office campuses where the future!
In a recent New Geography article, Aaron M. Renn wrote that now we know that decentralization has run its course. His view is that ” There was a massive wave of suburbanization in the post-War era that has finished.” I agree that the absolutes found in suburbia are not as true today as they were in the 60’s.
An emerging trend is to focus development around research universities that are generally found in the older more established sections of the community. University research is the key generator of new technologies in bioscience, digital media, law, energy and communications. These areas have the capacity for public transit, green space and in some cases available parking in off peak hours. They also include amenities like libraries, shared classrooms, student rec center with a gym, dry cleaners, cafeterias, day care, and coffee shops. Because there were planned in another time, they also offered an idyllic, almost pastoral settings with mature tree canopies of native species.
Today’s firms are less vertical integrated and more networked. They are heavily globalized and collaborative. They’ve also figured out that people who don’t get out and engage with the world around them end up cut off from information flows,and opportunities and are therefore likely to be left behind.