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August 31, 2006

A few months back we were sent a video from friends in NC. Its Carrboro was created and produced by concerned citizens who felt their city was being ignored.

Are citizens in your neck of the woods out shooting videos about how alive your community is? Send us your videos, we'd love to see them.

(posted by Rockin' Rod)

August 30, 2006

Does any municipal/metro policy issue elicit more confusion and hopelessness for leadership, citizens, and workers than traffic and commuting? The Wall Street Journal (free link) has a really interesting piece on a traffic/smog control experiment in Stockholm that IBM implemented. Sounds as if it was pretty successful...


"From January through July, Stockholm tested one of the world's most sophisticated traffic-management systems as part of a plan to reduce gridlock, lower smog levels and improve quality of life in the city. Unlike most other traffic-control plans in place in cities such as London and Rome, Stockholm used a dynamic-pricing system in which drivers were charged different amounts depending on the time of day. If Mr. Astrom, for example, left the city center at the busiest time of the afternoon rush, from 4 to 5:29, he would have paid the equivalent of $2.76. But by waiting until 6:30 p.m., he traveled toll-free. "People changed their habits," he said."

"...During the Stockholm trial, the city collected data on how the system affected air quality, parking and bus ridership. The results showed that traffic passing over the cordon decreased 22%, while traffic accidents involving injuries fell by 5% to 10%. Exhaust emissions, including carbon dioxide and particles, decreased by 14% in the inner city and by 2% to 3% in Stockholm County."

(posted by David)

August 29, 2006

A terrific interview in Business Week online with Harvard's Michael Porter.

From the Q & A...

"I call it the location paradox. If you think of globalization, your first reaction is to think that location doesn't matter any more. There are no barriers to investment. But the paradox is that location still matters. The U.S. is still the most important space in the world, for example, and regions have tremendous specialization. Anything that can be easily accessed from a distance no longer is a competitive advantage. But the more there are no barriers, the more things are mobile, the more decisive location becomes. This point has tripped up a lot of really smart people."

(posted by Richard)

A really interesting post over at The Future of Work Blog....

"Most of the discussion about "telework" and "telecommuting" describes those practices as using the Internet as an alternative to commuting to a "real" office. It's usually described as "commute or telecommute" - either one or the other.

Of course, those conversations rarely if ever point out that once most workers get to their physical workspace the first thing they do is fire up the PC, check their email, and begin teleworking with colleagues in other places; the definitions really don't fit the real world very well."

The post goes on to highlight a story from the SF Chronicle about select buses in the Bay Area offering wifi to riders so that they can telecommute as they commute. Will services like wifi on public transit change the commuting equation and lead to an increase in use of and demand for public transportation?

Alameda County Transit seems to think so and that is why it is spending $340,000 on the pilot program. Various other cities (including Seattle, Riverside in Southern California, and Cedar Rapids, IA) already offer wifi to bus riders.

(posted by David)

Today is the one year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina hitting the Gulf Coast. Here is a "How To Build New Orleans" by Witold Rybczynski at Slate.com... Here's the short piece I wrote about New Orleans back in January.

(posted by Richard)

August 28, 2006

Came across this hilarious piece from the Onion on Planetizen.com. From Planetizen, "A struggling artist laments in The Onion that more people like him aren't moving into his neighborhood to make it even more authentic than it is now...and asking for $3.00 lattes."

From the original piece in The Onion titled Sometimes I Feel Like I am the Only One Trying to Gentrify This Neighborhood,

"When I first moved in, I loved the 50-cent coffees—it was like living in the '80s—but I wish they'd listen to me and start making lattes. I know I'd pay the extra three bucks, and I'm sure everyone else around here would, too.

I've tried being proactive. But none of the locals I've talked to about bringing in a co-op health-food grocery store have seemed excited at all. Nor have I gotten any of them to take part in my community open-house idea for hip young people to come see what this neighborhood is capable of."

(posted by Richard)

Housing Bubble Trouble: In Sunday's NY Time's Week in Review (sub required), the paper's top economic reporter, David Leonhardt takes on the current housing situation in a piece with Vikas Bajaj.

It's a solid piece which includes Robert Schiller's much-cited chart showing housing prices from 1890 to today. The sharp upward spike since the mid-1990s is quite striking. But this piece goes to extra-mile quoting Christopher Mayer of Columbia University who has written on "superstar cities" with Wharton's Joseph Gyourko.

Mayer points out that the recent drop in sales does not sugest that a larger bust is coming. "So far we have only seen peole asking pie-in-the-sky prices and not getting them."

Housing markets are always local and they're terribly segmented. The past two decades have seen housing markets get even more stratified and bifurcated into rapidly escalating markets and more sluggish ones.

Mayer and Gyourko show how the increase in housing prices is the result of the remarkable run up in prices in Superstar Cities like New York and San Franciso, among others. Places that have seen 50 year increases and are unlikely to slow down. The Superstar Cities research shows that all that is needed to keep fueling price gains in superstar markets is growth in national income.

Ed Glaeser's research on the dispersion of human capital can be read as showing that demand for housing in talent magnet regions reinforces the pattern in superstar markets.

So how will the housing market generally and superstar markets fare in the coming months? My own take is that a slump is coming generally, and that it will hit particularly hard in those places where appreciation has been great recently, but that were never Superstar Cities -- places like Miami and Las Vegas.

In those places where the underlying business and demographic fundamentals cannot support prices --where job growth has been sluggish or which have seen job declines or loss of talent will also be hit.

My best guess is that superstar markets which offer unique characteristics and amenities and which have attracted talent and built strong economic bases may see prices slow but not dramatic declines.

(posted by Richard)

Check out this interview with John Chen, the CEO of Sybase, from the NY Times (sub required). The title of the interview is Sybase Outgrows the Valley. From the interview,

Q. You recently moved your offices to Dublin, Calif., east of the Bay Area. Is it a plus or a minus to be farther away from Silicon Valley?

A. We’re closer! When we were in Emeryville it would take me a lot longer to get to Palo Alto than Dublin. There are better traffic patterns. Distance was a wash. I decided a few years back that we needed a corporate identity that looks like a billion-dollar company.

I needed to get everyone together and give them a Class A environment. That’s one of the key drivers to really keep our employees happy, with state-of-the art features. We have exercise facilities and we have a great cafeteria, we have child care and an onsite preschool. We’re a different kind of Silicon Valley company. We don’t serve beer.

(posted by Richard)

August 25, 2006

The global fragrance industry, which is worth a reported $200 billion a year, has been given a dedicated columnist at the NY Times.

Chandler Burr, magazine writer and author of The Emperor of Scent: A True Story of Perfume and Obsession, will pen the Scent Strip column (sounds like a cartoon to me) in the NY Times and will rate fragrances as food critics rate food. The first review will be published on August 27th in T: The New York Times Style Magazine. Hopefully he will cover more mundane/commercial scents such as mouthwashes, processed foods, and air fresheners as I suspect they generate a lion's share of the revenue in the industry.

Is this more of Chris Anderson's long tail in action? Or is this a large, creative industry (there are quite a few perfume counters in department stores) that is getting its first prominent critic?

(posted by David)

August 24, 2006

Richard Florida

Radical Cartography

Some really fascinating stuff going on at Radical Cartography -- check out their income maps of the 25 largest Metros in the US. According to Bill Rankin of RadicalCartography.net,

"My primary goal was to compare "donut" cities with "wedge" cities, though perhaps only urban theorists will be surprised to learn that not all cities are the same. But I'm also interested in the relative sizes of the "donuts" and the "wedges." I have no solid numbers, but it looks like poverty donuts all tend to have about a five-mile radius, regardless of the size of the city. Perhaps this is the practical limit for commuting without a car?"

The North American subway map is cool also.

(posted by Richard)