Richard Florida: captain of a ‘revolution’

Here’s a fairly well-written article about Richard Florida and his ideas on what the current economic problems will bring.

Lately in one of my courses I have been studying Florida’s concepts through academic criticisms and media. I am beginning to sense a wave of pessimism and apprehension with regards to his ideas. Many have called them simplistic and nothing new. Once a huge fan of Florida, I have begun to see the other point of view. Generally Florida advocates for denser urban cores, bike paths, innovation, and culture. All of which I can also vouch for. However, when people start calling him “the next Jane Jacobs” and he begins to command a five-figure speaking fee, that’s when it gets ridiculous.

Not that Jacobs is perfect either. But Florida’s writing is simple compared to Jacob’s works of art.

In the end, Florida’s writings started to come across as trying too hard for me. I read Who’s Your City and for the entire book I couldn’t help but feel like it was my dad writing about how cool he should be considered. Though there is something to be said for writing accessibly, there is a point at which people begin to lose respect for you because you write for 14-year-olds.

I respect what Florida’s done, and the amount of work he’s put into it. He’s just trying too hard.

With regards to the article, I agree with the sentiment of most of it, except for one part:

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.

“Most downtown areas” in any “big city worth living in” have plenty of space for infill. I have looked around, and even Toronto, despite the torrent of downtown redevelopment, has hectares upon hectares of infill available. Parking lots, brownfields, low-density retail development– they’re all there, waiting for infill and redevelopment. It doesn’t have to be knocking down single-family neighbourhoods for apartments– in fact Toronto aims for infill development along major arterials. Otherwise, an entertaining piece of journalism.

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