These Cities Could Be Destined to Become Hollow Places

Joel Kotkin: “what about the amenity-rich places, the ones capable of appealing to part-time urbanites and sojourning young people? They need to ask an even more basic question about what kind of city they want to become. Art galleries, clubs, bars, and boutiques make these places undeniably fun, but they are not the things that convince the middle class, families, and most businesses to commit to a city for the long term. Relying on the culturally curious, these cities could be destined to become hollow places, Disneylands for adults.”

I don't read Metropolis Magazine enough to make a definitive statement that they're leading the backlash, but this article implicitly and an article this February explicitly criticize the Richard Florida argument that cities should emphasize creating spaces for the creative classes to make cities cool again. Kotkin's article, found via a discussion asking whether Portland, Oregon is an 'ephemeral city', which “unlike the imperial capital, which administered a vast empire and extracted riches from it, or the commercial city, which thrived by trading goods, [...] prospers by providing an alternative lifestyle to a small sector of society.” I keep returning to an article and conversation about Vancouver in which the memorable comments describe the city as a “self centred, silly little place where the locals vastly overstate their importance, so much so [that] we have become an international embarrassment” and more succinctly, “a three dressed up as a nine”. I tried convincing a friend that Gastown, an area she's getting to like (and, in fairness, which she visits more than I do), is a an infuriating place where both the fake touristy crap—like the guy who dabs on top of prints, faking that he's finishing up a painting—and extreme poverty co-exist.

Not that I have a great mental map of the city. It mostly consists of work and the surrounding few blocks and the Hastings corridor, aka Crackton. I don't really hold out much hope that Vancouver could be an ephemeral city, since it seems so small-time and boring every time I come back from the United States.