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Thread: It's Not About Being Hip

  1. Default It's Not About Being Hip

    The latest technique for cities to attract development has been for workers to consider it cool. Readers have taken Richard Florida's creative class theory to mean that for a city to grow, it must be hip. People have dismissed the theory as just a fad -- after all, that's what "hip' means, to be temporarily in fashion.

    But a writer says that being hip is not enough:

    Pluses, minuses for Providence -- Trying to be hip won't save cities

    A half-century ago, many urbanists, including the late Lewis Mumford, believed that the inexorable shift to the suburbs was transforming cities into discarded parcels of "a disordered and disintegrating urban mass." Yet today, cities seem in many ways not to be disintegrating; rather, they are widely believed to be enjoying a revival of considerable proportions.

    Such an assessment may be replacing the excessive pessimism of the 1960s with an overblown optimism. In reality, thoughout the last 40 years the suburbs have gained ground on the urban centers on almost every significant measure, from corporate headquarters to jobs in manufacturing, high technology, and business services.

    So what about the ballyhooed urban revival?

    What we are seeing is more like a subtle shift in the role of cities: from the commanding centers of global civilization to (at least in the advanced countries) a more peripheral function.

    In many ways, this follows the prediction made a century ago by H.G. Wells, who said that cities would evolve from the unquestioned center of economic life into a "bazaar, a great gallery of shops and places of concourse and rendezvous."

    Today, such cultural industries are becoming the focus of many urban political and business leaders. Instead of working to retain middle-class families, factory jobs, and economic superiority to the periphery, many cities now stress such ephemeral concepts as fashionability and "hipness" -- trend and style -- as the keys to their survival.

    Montréal, for example, once a financial- and business-services center, seems intent on wiping out much of its remaining industrial base -- even its vibrant garment sector -- in favor of marketing the city as "hip and happening."

    In many other cities -- including San Francisco, Miami, Boston, and New York -- culture-based tourism has emerged among the largest and most promising industries. And such fast-growing urban areas as Las Vegas and Orlando depend on providing "experiences," complete with eye-catching architecture and round-the-clock entertainment, as their base economy.

    It is conceivable that New York, Boston or Chicago could poke along the 21st Century on the strength of their cultural attributes. They will probably never recover their former importance, but the yuppies, the aging affluent, and the temporary 20-somethings may have a good enough time not to notice.

    The trend gets absurd, however, when it comes to smaller, less culturally endowed places. Take Detroit, the now desolate auto capital, whose political and business leaders hoped that by making it a "cool city" -- attracting gays, Bohemians, and young "creatives" -- they could find the answer to their profound economic and social problems. Unfortunately, though, many of those most attracted to culture, restaurants, and nose-ring parlors are not going to choose the Motor City over, well, about 50 alternatives.

    This applies even to better-off smaller cities, such as Providence. Athough they have nicely restored central districts, attractive to professionals and college students, so do 100 or so other places. Some people might stay a year or two, maybe even a decade, but it's unlikely that culture will keep them after they've spent a weekend in Boston, not to mention New York.

    A stratagem based on purported or real cultural attractions also fails to address some disturbing realities. Brookings Institution demographer Bill Frey says that many of the young people who are lured to "cool" urban places leave when they start businesses and families. He adds, "There are simply not enough yuppies to go around" for such cities.

    If people stay in Providence, particularly people in their 30s, it is probably not for the art museums and cafés, but, rather, for more such mundane reasons as a low crime rate, affordable housing, family-friendly environments, and, more than anything else, jobs that pay decently.

    This is where Providence and its environs can and often do outperform a New York or a Boston. Such advantages to being smaller, particularly when a city is well run, can spark a regional revival. A smaller community can often hone its development efforts, engage its citizens, and solve fundamental problems more easily than a big metropolis.

    Yet city officials, planners, arts foundations and developers often don't adopt such an approach, because it can be difficult and expensive. It is much easier and more media-friendly (not to mention immediately profitable for developers and their political patrons) to plan some lovely or kicky project or endow a museum or sports facility with taxpayers' money than it is to nurture small businesses.

    Meanwhile, it can be tough to persuade a factory not to move to Mexico or China; to rebuild failing schools; and to improve mass transit. Yet these economic fundamentals should remain the focus of progressive city officials and business and civic leaders.

    As long as the leaders indulge their fantasies about being "hip" and neglect a firmer foundation, their cities will become little more than theme parks for the affluent -- and symbols of lost opportunity for everyone else.

    To me, the key to Oklahoma City's growth is not being hip, as it is being open. Let's face it, among the pool of workers that cities look for for the new economy, Oklahoma City will never be considered as hip as a Seattle. But it can be open -- open to new ideas, open to new ways of doing things, open to new participants in cultural and economic development, open to expression. And it must announce to these workers that it is "open" for business and new talent. You can be open-minded without being a slave to the latest trends.

    Oklahoma City is climbing higher, and more and more people are taking notice. What it has to do is tell people, "We want you here; we want your participation and ideas and energy." Ultimately, what people are looking for is not a Las Vegas or New Orleans just to have a good time. They are looking for stimulating environments that offer opportunity -- on top of the good schools, hospitals, safe neighborhoods.
    Continue the Renaissance

  2. Default Re: It's Not About Being Hip

    I disagree...I've never really read what Richard Florida said, but "hip" "cool" "wow" is what OKC and Tulsa need. Aging populations is not a good thing...attracting young cool, hip entepreneurs is a good thing. AND SEATTLE???? THE SUICIDE CAPITAL OF THE U.S.??? NOT what I consider hip by any standards.

  3. Default Re: It's Not About Being Hip

    There's a fine line here. Living in Cleveland, I happen to think it's a very hip city. But among the locals, it's a dry as the desert. That's because natives keep comparing themselves to a Chicago and New York, when they should be celebrating what they already have.

    There's a certain truth to the argument that the people who flock to "hip" cities will only relocate later on. Their tastes are finicky. What we need to do is attract people who will stay.

    Having said that, I think it's possible to be "cool" and open without being hip. Hip means temporarily in fashion. But to be open means you welcome expression and new ideas. That's what these creatives are looking for. To be cool means you are understanding and tolerant.

    For Oklahoma City to get hip would be a mask. We can have bustling music scenes, art galleries, coffeehouse cultures without necessarily being "hip". It's not about being in fashion, it's about being vibrant.
    Continue the Renaissance

  4. Default Re: It's Not About Being Hip

    I guess we could have a park that had only one way in and one way out.

    At the entrance would be a shop that required you either register or rent bicycles, inline skates or skateboards, or register as a jogger. In a bit farther would be the starbucks. As you move through the park, you would find an Atkins approved low carb cafe with booths for cellular chatters and notebook computer users to interface with the high speed internet. Cruising on, you would find the water stop with bottled water in various flavors. then in between you would find your boutiques with tatoo parlors and piercing parlors that specialized in obsure tatoos and piercings (hidden body areas, plus eyes, tongue and other areas).

    About that time, you have reached the end of the park.

    Is that "hip?" Guess what. It is now three years later. Atkins is no longer the rage, Starbucks has overstayed their welcome, and tatoos and body piercings are passe'...

    The park is now deserted...

  5. #5
    Patrick Guest

    Default Re: It's Not About Being Hip

    floater, I think that interesting that you say people in Cleveland want their city to be like Chicago or New York. Seems like every city wants to be like another city. With OKC it's Dallas. With Tulsa it's KC or OKC. With Memphis it's Nashville! I think we need to stop trying to be like other cities and start being ourselves.
    Anyways, it's so true...being hip is not we need to strive for. We jsut need to strive to continue to make OKC a quality place to live with such venues as floater has mentioned.

  6. Default Re: It's Not About Being Hip

    A common theme among transplants is that it takes an outsider to appreciate what good things a city has. I've heard far more transplants rave about Cleveland (myself included) than native Clevelanders. That's not a good thing, and it's common in middling cities. The locals carry such baggage from previous mistakes and scandals, and they take for granted their region's assets. Visitors my family has hosted in OKC rave at how laid-back we are (upon seeing an inline skater after eating at Lake Hefner's Bahama Breeze) whereas they're used to seeing frazzled workers on the subway...
    Continue the Renaissance

  7. Default Re: It's Not About Being Hip

    Ok, I just have to set things right...and I thought you all would have picked this up from the TulsaNow forum. Nothing against OKC, but it is not what Tulsa is wanting to be...I enjoy the OKC booming thread on TulsaNow because I think its great that OKC is going in the upward direction. But Tulsa doesn't want to be OKC and OKC doesn't want to be Tulsa. I'm not really sure about KC either. The two cities that Tulsa is striving for are Austin and Portland. And not to be there exact replica, but to move in the direction those two cities have and to create an urban area that will compete with those two cities. I think Tulsa and OKC, while both headed up, are headed in different directions and want different things. OKC is wanting the BIG city feel and to be a big city with tons of people living in the metro. OKC wants national recognition through size...in other words, Dallas...and there is nothing at all wrong with that. If OKC can achieve this, it would be considered one of America's greatest inner cities. Tulsa on the other hand isn't so much wanting the population, really wants to stay a smaller city, but just have a high-density of great things happening. To make the entire area a very up-scale and vibrant city. I know OKC is striving for those two things too, but I just see OKC becoming more of a Dallas...a huge thriving metropolis, and Tulsa becoming more of a Portland, a medium sized, very classy city.

  8. Default Re: It's Not About Being Hip

    I think that's a nice distinction, nuclear. On target. I think we are milking the "1.2 million area residents" for all its worth. It's funny, because with your description of Tulsa's model, I myself might be more inclined to settle there...whereas the Big D has flash, Austin and Ft. Worth I much more enjoy...
    Continue the Renaissance

  9. #9
    Patrick Guest

    Default Re: It's Not About Being Hip

    Nuclear, I happen to agree with you. I already think Tulsa and OKC are moving in those directions. Tulsa has always had a classier, more artsy feel to it, while OKC has always had the big city feel to it! Not sure if OKC will ever be a Dallas, but the people around here will sure keep trying.

  10. Default Re: It's Not About Being Hip

    I agree with nuclear and floater. I've seen Tulsa and OKC had in the directions nuclear describes. Yes, I also believe Tulsa's and Oklahoma City's models are both good models, and it's that very distinction that will help make Oklahoma an easier state to sell. As most if not all of us know, Oklahoma is a hard state to sell... something a few people do not understand.

    Oklahoma City is going for that big city feel, and that is what I like. I'm just the kind of person that likes that big city feel. That is something I would like to see happen here in Oklahoma with OKC. Tulsa's model as a high density mid-size city may prove to be it's ultimate success. With Tulsa's city council voting not to annex 23 square miles, it's already achieving that destiny with city developers looking for more creative uses with what land is left in Tulsa. However, according to the 2003 census, Tulsa's population continues to decline, decreasing to 387,000 from 393,000 back in 2000.

    Oklahoma City on the other hand increased from 506,132 in 2000 to about 524,000 in 2003. Thus, nuclear's post holds solid truth... stats don't lie!

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