Uncool Cities

From London and Berlin to Sydney and San Francisco, civic authorities agree that the key to urban prosperity is appealing to the ‘hipster set’ of gays, twentysomethings and young creatives. But the only evidence for this idea comes from the dot-com boom of the late 1990s—and that time is over.”

Joel Kotkin in Prospect Magazine:

Yet rather than address serious issues like housing, schools, transport, jobs and security, mayors and policy gurus from Berlin and London to Sydney and San Francisco have adopted what can be best be described as the “cool city strategy.” If you can somehow make your city the rage of the hipster set, they insist, all will be well.

New Orleans, the most recent victim of catastrophic urban decline, is a case in point. Once a great commercial hub, the city’s economic and political elites have placed all their bets on New Orleans becoming a tourist and culture centre. Indeed, just a month before the disaster, city leaders held a conference that promoted a “cultural economy initiative” strategy for attracting high-end industry. The other big state initiative was not levee improvement but a $450m expansion for the now infamous convention centre.

This rush to hipness has its precedents, perhaps even in Roman festivals or medieval fairs. But in the past, most cities did not see entertainment as their main purpose. Rome was an imperial seat; Manchester, Berlin, Chicago and Detroit foundries of the industrial age; London, New York, and later Tokyo, global financial centres.

More here.