Do Cities Need Artists?

Richard Florida, head of the Creative Class Group and chief advocate of the hipster approach to urban renewal, now admits cities shouldn’t count on the creative class to revive decaying neighborhoods.

[T]he benefits of appealing to the creative class accrue largely to its members—and do little to make anyone else any better off. The rewards of the “creative class” strategy, [Florida] notes, “flow disproportionately to more highly-skilled knowledge, professional and creative workers,” since the wage increases that blue-collar and lower-skilled workers see “disappear when their higher housing costs are taken into account.” His reasonable and fairly brave, if belated, takeaway: “On close inspection, talent clustering provides little in the way of trickle-down benefits.”


The failure of the creative class to move the needle much on rescuing declining American cities may also have to do with the isolation of hipster neighborhoods in places like Cleveland and Hartford. It’s much easier to revive a distressed neighborhood when it’s surrounded by healthier zones than it is to revive one neighborhood that’s far away from anyplace else of comparable value. Wicker Park in Chicago in the 1990s worked because of its proximity to lakefront neighborhoods. The area around Temple University continues to struggle because it’s marooned in blighted North Philadelphia. 

Richard Florida’s response to Joel Kotkin: Bollocks, you got it all wrong.

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