Monday, May 10, 2010

Re-locating crime?

Moving or removing crime from Memphis public housing?

United Airlines is moving to downtown Chicago! Or so we're told in this week's issue of Harvard Business Review. Walgreens too, we're told, is rediscovering downtown. Are Corporate HQ's leading a suburban exodus back to the same city centers that middle and wealthy classes once abandoned to gangs, drugs and crime?

Another sign of change shows up in the Next American City magazine. Apparently Cleveland is re-imagining itself from the ground up. In that case it is the re-use of downtown vacant land - not corporate moves - leading the charge.

Could Richard Florida's predictions about new urban geographies be coming true as we emerge from the Great Recession? Are we really seeing the era when Florida's "creative economy"is extended to blue collar workers?


Predictions like this echo the 1990s when Boston's Big Dig and urban garden programs heralded inner city gentrification. Of course re-locating downtown poor to the suburbs in favor of a rich, empty-nester class does little more than displace the poor to the suburbs.

Evidence for the re-locating phenomena is well documented by University of Memphis researchers Richard Betts and Phyllis Janikowski. Check out their American Murder Mystery story in The Atlantic.

As Florida says, "what drives a countries economic growth isn't factories or industries. It's people and creative neighborhoods in cities." I think it's the same for safe cities.

We don't want simply to shift urban geographies. We want to improve them.