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Posts tagged ‘Cities’

Where are the best cities for jobs for young people?

Good article from Richard Florida over at CityLab – formerly The Atlantic Cities – on where jobs are for young (25-34 year-olds, essentially) people these days. I’ve probably summarized about 3/4 of Florida’s articles over the past six months, so at this point I think I should call him “incomparable.” Here’s the main article.

For those who just like lists, here are the 10 best cities for jobs for young people, in order: Read more

The AstroDome could become the new High Line

Harris County judge Ed Emmett seemingly has a good deal of power in the Houston area. That’s relevant, because he “absolutely opposes” demolishing the AstroDome, which basically hasn’t been consistently used in years. People have been discussing the fate of the AstroDome seemingly forever, and it admittedly is on the National Register of Historic Places.

There’s a new plan in play — from Emmett — that basically aims to turn the AstroDome into the world’s largest indoor garden. That theoretically doesn’t mean a lot, since most gardens are outdoors, but it’s a very Texas-type thing to say (and could help with tourism, although I feel like most tourism to Houston is likely business travel at this point). Whether it can actually happen is largely based on the details (of course), but if it’s not getting torn down anytime soon and it’s not really hosting that much, you could do worse than putting a series of beautiful flowers inside it for people to walk around. Read more

Is Tampa representative of the American city crossroads?

I have a lot of family in Florida, but admittedly I don’t know a ton about Tampa. I’ve always found that people in Florida tend to disparage areas that aren’t their own — Miami will trash Orlando, and vice versa, for example — and I’ve only been to Tampa a handful of times (no family there), so perhaps my context is devoid. But it seems like an interesting place right now in terms of this whole “millennials will soon be the dominant force in the economy and home ownership, so what should a city do?” discussion. (For three things cities can do, see here, here and here.)

The City Is Growing Fiscally

Consider this: rents at Crescent Bayshore are going for $2.32 a foot, which essentially means that a 3BR, 1,600-foot spot is $3,800/month. That’s not quite NYC-level, but it’s close in some regards. But there’s always a caveat, and in this case it’s two-fold:

Multifamily experts say the building’s unique location, with its waterfront views and proximity to downtown and South Tampa, allow it to command those kinds of rents. SkyHouse, a 23-story, 320-unit apartment high rise under construction in Channelside, will likely command rent above $2 per square foot, in line with the Element, an apartment tower in Tampa’s urban core. Across the Bay, rents at Madera Prime 235 in St. Petersburg are close to or on par with Crescent Bayshore, but downtown St. Petersburg is farther ahead than Tampa in the race to create a live-work-play environment.

Good: near water and downtown/South Tampa. Bad: St. Petersburg is ahead of them on creating an environment.

But Is Tampa Doing Enough To Retain Millennials?

Now consider this, from Medium. A Tampa-based writer opens with this:

For a city that has a stated goal to become the high-tech center of the Southeast by attracting and retaining the best young talent Tampa sure is doing a lot to push us out.

Some of the central arguments: blue laws (which are ridiculous no matter where they are), the demolition of the “Bro Bowl” (a skate park), and restrictions on Uber and Lyft, among other ride-sharing-type services.

This is a really interesting crossroads situation here. You see the same stuff in a place like Boston, which has a higher reputation for innovation than a place like Tampa — but still, Boston is very much controlled by old-school, back-door politics in many ways. I suspect it’s the same in the Tampa area. Taxis are a f’n terrible industry. They needed to be disrupted, and that’s what Uber/Lyft/etc. do. But they’re also very politically powerful, and that makes it hard (it’s hard to fight the man, after all).

If you want young people, you need progressive ideas — a generalization, but true.

I was actually talking to my friend from Seattle recently about an off-shoot of this concept: Seattle is an incredibly progressive place on things like marijuana, gay marriage, and even minimum wage. Yet, they have mostly-awful public transportation that makes it really hard to get from A to B in a quick, easy fashion. So sometimes being progressive isn’t enough; you need to be both progressive and practical. That’s how you get millennials.

In some ways here, it feels like Tampa is being neither — despite a Tampa-area company being the first to have an openly-gay CEO among publicly-traded companies.

This Is The Future Of Cities

We don’t know what’s going to happen with airfare in the next 20-30 years — if it goes through the roof for some reason, I feel like a lot of people might start living closer to their core family, irregardless of what industry they wanted to be part of — but in terms of the future of U.S. cities, everything comes down to appealing to a new crop of dwellers (those being millennials). It’s a different world for them — heck, in terms of hotels too — and Tampa seems like one of those “crossroads cities” that has the potential to ratchet up (near water, decently cheap cost of living, good tax situation, a couple of tech hubs, etc.) but needs to make sure it makes the right decisions in the process.



The social psychology of Las Vegas is incredible, if you think about it.

I was just in Las Vegas for about eight days. I’d classify Vegas as — at best – a 72-hour city, so eight days was a lot. I was a mix of sober, drunk, exhausted, over-worked, experiencing leg pain, getting lost on the Strip, and attempting to analyze a whole different series of contexts and emotions. Here are a couple of thoughts.

1. I checked in on a Friday at about 10:10am local time. I hadn’t been to Vegas in about four years at the time I was checking in, so when I saw two guys approach the check-in desk at 10am and each were double-fisting Coronas, I kind of did a double-take. Then I realized, “OK, yea, this is Las Vegas.” Those guys were maybe 22-24, so it made sense — they either landed that morning or got in last night, and regardless, they didn’t appear to be on any “clock” (wearing team jerseys and shorts), so whatever, it’s a Friday off. Who among us hasn’t pounded drinks early on a Friday off? It happens.

Then in the line behind me were two married couples from Iowa, vacationing together — about late 50s, all of them — and one of the two husbands brings about four G&Ts into the line and passes them out. These people were just checking in. It was maybe 10:15am. Now they were all pounding G&Ts. A whole host of memories of Vegas flooded back to me at that moment.

2. Other oddly-timed drunk story: at 2pm that same day, I saw a dude being carried to the elevator bank by four other dudes. When the security guard asked what was wrong, one of the friends said “Bachelor party.” Again, this was 2pm on a weekday.

3. Think about this one for a second: how many cities in the world are truly unique? You could probably rattle off about 10-20, right? Paris is probably right up there. New York City. London. Buenos Aires. Beijing. Moscow. Rome. Etc, etc. I’m missing a ton. Each place in the world is totally unique in its own regard — I do fervently believe that — but start thinking about it a little differently: London and New York are different in terms of layout and water and culture, but they have a vaguely similar ethos. Same with a couple of European cities you could cross-pollinate, and same with some Asian cities. Buenos Aires is an original, but it bears some similarity (some being the key word) to Santiago and Lima.

Now: is there any place in the world truly like Las Vegas? You hear dozens of languages on the Strip. People are walking around drinking at all points of the day. At 3am last Saturday night, it was challenging to get from one hotel to another on the Strip because the streets were jammed. At 3am. On a Saturday. I lived in New York for over 20 years all in and I’ve never seen that, not even in the East/West Village.

I wouldn’t necessarily make this argument, but you could make the argument that, on some measure, Las Vegas is the most unique city in the entire world. It definitely has the infrastructure to bring in the world. We know that.

4. Had a friend tell me while there, “Las Vegas to me is like Vietnam. You can’t possibly go in as yourself, and you’re not coming out the same person you were before.” Had another friend tell me, “I honestly believe the first thing you pack when you leave for Vegas is a different personality.” You can describe Vegas in a ton of different ways — “hedonistic playground,” “Sin City,” whatever you want to call it — but this is an interesting aspect. It’s a city in the middle of a desert that attracts world conferences. There’s no legitimate context for why there should even be a city there, and it’s a city hosting 100K people at a time. That’s weird to think about, because in a way, nothing about Vegas is real. How many people out there for 3-4 days are truly acting like themselves, as they would be back in Des Moines or Boston or Charlotte? Probably very few. It’s kind of a perpetual state of suspended animation from a psychological standpoint.

5. I actually stayed at the Bellagio most of the time I was out there. The Bellagio is an amazing property in a number of ways — think about it like MLB ballparks. In MLB, a new ballpark is always being built, and that becomes “the thing.” Same with Vegas. Since Bellagio first went up, dozens of new spots have gone up. And yet, Bellagio is still a major mainstay / stand-by for people on The Strip. (Kind of like Camden Yards in MLB, I guess.) Why? Well one reason is how they design the gaming areas:

Finlay refers to Thomas’s environments as “adult playgrounds,” since they provide an atmosphere in which people are primed to seek pleasure. “These casinos have lots of light and excellent way-finding,” she told me. “They make you feel comfortable, of course, but they also constantly remind you to have fun.”

She went on, “The data is clear. Gamblers in a playground casino will stay longer, feel better, and bet more. Although they come away with bigger losses, they’re eager to return.”
Finlay notes that the effectiveness of such designs comes at the expense of the guests, who have been persuaded by flowers and nice furniture to squander money on games that are rigged in favor of the house. According to her findings, Thomas’s designs have a particularly marked efect on those guests who normally don’t gamble. The seduction of his décor, perhaps, is that it doesn’t feel like a gambling environment. The beauty is a kind of anesthesia, distracting people from the pain of their inevitable losses.

Seduction of decor? Everything about Las Vegas goes back to basic human psychology, and how to play within it.

6. The El Rancho Vegas was actually the first hotel to appear on “The Strip,” for any and all history buffs. That’s where it all began.

7. Bottom line on all this: just a very interesting, unique place with an amazing connection back to the human experience, human behavior, and psychology in general. The world does pass through there — I’d honestly guess the only other places with nearly the amount of not-necessarily-just-business-travelers are NYC, Paris, London and maybe Toronto (very diverse populace up there) — so almost any decision you make needs to take into account how people might perceive it in the context of being in Vegas and disconnecting from their “real” selves (hence the adult playground stuff above).

Can you all think of a more interesting social psychology city than Vegas?

29.21 percent of Monaco are millionaires. Holy hell.

There are 72 billionaires living in London, but if we knock it down a peg to millionaires, the density becomes insane for one city. Get this: 3 in 10 people who live in Monaco are millionaires. Um:

“It’s unsurprising to see that Monaco is the most likely place where you will bump into a millionaire,” said Williams. “The principalities’ low tax and Mediterranean waterfront is the ideal habitat for wealthy individuals.”

The tiny sovereign city-state, perched on the edge of the French Riviera, has long boasted of a high millionaire head-count, thanks to its practice of levying little to no income tax on individuals.

Perhaps for this reason it’s no surprise that Monaco (and its famous Monte Carlo casino) attracts a cabal of celebrity residents and sportspeople, and has been a feature of several Bond films, including Never Say Never Again and GoldenEye.

Zurich and Geneva were No. 2/3 on the list, and the three main U.S. cities cracking the top 20 were NYC (finance), Houston (oil/gas/energy) and San Francisco (tech). London, No. 1 for the billionaires, is No. 6 for the millionaires.

Pull yourself up by the bootstraps, millionaires!

I kid. Actually after the World Cup, I was trying to figure out a team to root for in the various European club leagues — when I got to Ligue 1, I was thinking AS Monaco (PSG seems like too easy of a choice). AS Monaco just lost James Rodriguez to Real Madrid, so that’s a bit of a bummer — and they might lose Falcao too. But it seems like they have Lucas Ocampos still, and he looks like a stud:

God, the wealth in Monaco is just staggering, eh? 3 in 10? 3 in 10??!?

Raleigh is apparently the best place to have a career right now

I love “best places to live” studies and research, because I think it’s a fundamental question of the next generation coming up in the workplace. The Utah and Colorado areas always tend to do very well, and you can also look at the data to figure out where people are moving (and moving away from).

Here’s some new stuff, via Forbes, that indicates Raleigh-Durham is the No. 1 place for businesses and having a career in 2014:

Fueling Raleigh’s consistent results are business costs that are 18% below the national average, and an adult population where 42% have a college degree, the 12th best rate in the U.S. (30% is the national average). Raleigh is home to North Carolina State University and nearby schools include Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The area’s appeal has led to a strong inflow of new residents to the city, which boasts the sixth fastest net migration rate over the past five years.

Research Triangle Park continues to fuel significant development in the area. The park is located at the core of the Raleigh-Durham-Cary Combined Statistical Area, and it is the largest research park in the country. It features roughly 170 companies that employ 39,000 full-time, mostly high-tech workers. There have been 1,800 start-up companies created at RTP since 1970.

Raleigh was third last year, and Des Moines was first; Des Moines is now second, and Provo, Utah is third. Interestingly, three Utah cities are the top 11 — Provo, then Salt Lake City at No. 8 and Ogden at No. 11. I say “interestingly” because people tend to associate Utah with beautiful mountains and Mormonism — and perhaps Stockton-to-Malone — but not necessarily with business. That said, they’ve got way-better-than-expected public transportation in SLC, for a western red state.

Fort Collins and Denver, both obviously in Colorado, are 4/5 in this Forbes study.

Here’s the landing page for what they did, and here’s the methodology.

The overall thing they do to calculate this is:

We consider 12 metrics relating to job growth (1-year, 5-year and projected 3-year), costs (business and living), income growth over the past five years, educational attainment (college and high school) and projected economic growth through 2016. We also factor in net migration patterns over the past five years, as well as cultural and recreational opportunities. Lastly we included the number of highly ranked colleges in an area per our annual college rankings. We give the most weighting to business costs and educational attainment in the overall ranking.

There’s probably one big lesson here if you’re looking to develop/expand your city, or if you’re looking for a place to locate your business. For the longest time, the model was “Wait for a city to give tax breaks, and then flood the zone.” Now the model seems to be: “What areas have access to the highest-quality potential talent?” Think about it: the areas that topped this study are all near research hubs. RTP in Raleigh is near Duke, UNC, NC State, and others. Des Moines is near most Big 10 universities, and very close to both UIowa and Iowa State. Provo and SLC have BYU, University of Utah, etc. And Fort Collins-Denver-Boulder area have University of Colorado, Colorado State, and more. This is all part of how the Bay Area became “the thing” — Stanford, Berkeley, et al — or how Indianapolis might.

Another interesting thing here is this idea: a lot of these places — especially the Utah/Colorado areas, but to some extent Raleigh (although not Des Moines) — are places where people go, not necessarily places where people are from. There’s an insularity aspect to that discussion. I’ve always assumed/thought — and heard periodically in research — that places like Denver, Phoenix and San Francisco (where everyone seems to be from somewhere else) are easier to do business because more ideas are flying (less insularity and comfort). Places like Minneapolis and Des Moines, where people tend to be from there, can be harder to do business in. That could all be bullshit. Point is: interesting to consider that some of the “best cities to do business” are also cities that people migrate to, as opposed to staying in.

What do restaurants mean to cities? A lot, apparently.

This morning, my wife was driving me to work (because we now live in Texas and only have one car, and while I could take the bus it’s a little bit of a hassle — maybe when it gets a bit colder again) and when we got near downtown Fort Worth, we saw that an unique restaurant — something called Ferre — was being renovated into a Cheesecake Factory. My first thought was, “Damn, that place will be slammed at 5:30pm on Fridays,” which is undoubtedly true — and while I thought that to myself, I’ll definitely not avoid it at that time, and rather fight through throngs of people to get a Fat Tire on tap, because that’s how I roll.

But I have long been interested in what restaurants do for cities. This goes a little to the sprawl vs. urbanism discussion, because when you get out to a mall/anchor store area (think Macy’s, Nordstrom’s, huge parking lots, a movie theater, etc.) you tend to know what you’re gonna get: a Cheesecake, a Ruby Tuesday’s, a Chili’s, a P.F. Chang’s, etc. You see this in the downtown of some cities as well, but typically the downtown / midtown / hipster areas also have a lot of original restaurant content that, ostensibly, will bring in locals and tourists alike.

Now there’s a new report called “The State Of The City Experience” from Sasaki that talks about some of these issues; the paper is also summarized at CityLab. Core takeaway: people in cities tend to like (a) good food, (b) rejuvenated waterfront districts and (c) historical architecture. On the food front, there’s this quote:

Going out to eat has been a huge driver of America’s urban renaissance, judging by the poll results. Like any café owner in Paris, today’s U.S. restaurateurs know full well the vaunted place of food in the spectrum of city life. The line-out-the-door bistro is the meeting place, the water cooler, the modern-day bazaar—maybe even the new congregational convening. Have you been to (fill in the blank)? It’s central to the urban conversation.

Maybe a little bit of a jump to compare the American and Parisian cuisine scenes (although what do I really know? I’ve never been to Paris), but otherwise this makes sense. You can make an argument that we should prioritize food less with how many people are poor and hungry, and there’s an amount of validity there. But the fact is, people need to eat, and the middle class and above do like to have experiences around eating in their hometown — and apparently, they base some of their travel decisions on what areas are renowned for food as well.

Get this, as well:

The Sasaki survey results reflect a similar appreciation of the local, in ingredients and entrepreneurship. Forty-six percent of those surveyed said they want their cities to invest in more community-focused events and attractions such as farmer’s markets, swap meets, and food trucks.

Agree with this wholeheartedly. Whenever I move to a new city or visit a city for a weekend and know there’s the possibility of cooking involved, I automatically hit the iPhone to see what farmers’ markets are around. I don’t even always trust that farmers’ markets have the freshest stuff — there are occasions where supermarkets might, if they’re near farming areas and/or a lot of hubs — but it’s almost always very good and cheaper than average.

Maybe the title of this article should have been “What does food mean to cities?” The answer there is also “a lot, apparently.” But if you think about it in a Hierarchy of Needs-type way, it makes perfect sense. We need to eat and we don’t always want to do that at home — and when traveling, we almost never want to do it in a hotel / our friend’s house — so food shapes a good deal of our experiences.

This has a lot of roll-up for urban planners and designers: basically, make it relatively easy for new restaurants to open in uptown/downtown/midtown areas, and create community events/farmers’ markets along those areas as well to encourage people out for the late afternoon/early evening drinks + appetizers period. Oh, and make things walkable. Millennials like that, and businesses need them to come in droves in order to build their talent strategy.




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