Cool v. Uncool Cities

Via Andrew Gelman, Bill Fulton over at his blog with the California Planning and Development Report:

A few years ago, a little-known academic named Richard Florida turned the economic development world upside down by publishing a book called The Rise of the Creative Class. In a nutshell, Florida’s argument was that to be successful today, cities have to be cool…

The minute Florida declared that cities had to be cool, however, it was only a matter of time before Joel Kotkin starting writing that cities wouldn’t succeed unless they were un-cool. Kotkin had long been a fan of what he calls “nerdistans” – boring suburbs (he always seems to mention Irvine) that nevertheless house some of the most powerful drivers of the American economy, especially in the tech sectors. But Florida’s work really revved him up. In a typical article for the Manhattan Institute last year, Kotkin called the cool cities idea “shtick” and suggested that the creative class “by the time they get into their 30s, may be more interested in economic opportunity, a single family house and procreation than remaining ‘hip and cool’ urbanites.”

The question of how to rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina gave Kotkin a special opportunity to wave the flag for uncool cities.