Monday, January 28, 2008

Metropolitan Ecosystems

Tonight, I got into a conversation with a fellow resident about (big surprise!) cities. I (as you know) have moved here to Minneapolis from Cleveland. He (the fellow resident, that is) moved here from San Diego. We talked a bit about why Minneapolis is a pretty cool city. There are, of course, a lot of advantages. Tonight, I want to write a bit about the city as a ecosystem which serves a broad and varied demographic.

A city works when it can provide enough variety of lifestyles in enough quantity to fulfill demand. Remember, there are two "enoughs" in that previous sentence: enough VARIETY, and enough QUANTITY.

Let's unpack that a bit. Take a look at Cleveland. Why is the region faltering? In many ways, the region is ideal. The suburbs are beautiful, well-maintained, with great houses and great schools. The cost of living is low, the amenities are great (visit the lake! visit the parks!), the transportation network is solid, and so on. These are all wonderful virtues of the suburban world.

But wait.... virtues of the suburban world? Now we're hitting on something. The Cleveland region provides a high-quality "traditional" suburban lifestyle to a huge number of people. And indeed, there are hundreds of thousands of families in the region who want just that lifestyle.

There are, however, demographics who do not want that lifestyle. I am among them. I am an urbanist, and want to live in a vibrant, diverse city with a lot of economic opportunity. I flatter myself to think that I am NOT the only former Clevelander who has these priorities. As a matter of fact, I know a number of people who left Cleveland for exactly this reason.

So what is Minneapolis doing right? It is still largely a suburban region. The vast majority of my coworkers have families and live in the burbs.

But not all of them. Many people still do live in the city. The housing stock in the city itself is fantastic. The fellow resident (from San Diego) just bought a place in southwest Minneapolis, a gorgeous neighborhood. The city offers a much more urban llfestyle, plainly put. The variety, and quantity, of cultural events is simply stunning. And, I might add, the availability of mid-level professional jobs is a significant incentive to locate here (more on that in another post).

Ok, enough blind praise for the moment. I'll write more about the economic ladder later.


Blogger bonnie said...

Stephen, Glad to see you posting again although you got a tad bit carried away with the blind praise. I can understand why, however, having recently moved from the burbs to the city center (on the other side of the river) and thoroughly enjoying it most of the time. Like you, I get carried away with my "How do I love thee's" when I talk about the city!

2:12 AM  

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