Why do people—especially talented Creative Class people, who have lots of choices—opt to locate in certain places? What draws them to some places and not to others? Economists and social scientists have paid a great deal of attention to the location decisions of companies, but they have virtually ignored how people, especially creative people, make the same choices.
This question first began to vex me more than a decade ago. In search of answers, I began by simply asking people how they made their decisions about where to live and work. I started with my students and colleagues and then turned to friends and associates in other cities. Eventually, I began to ask virtually everyone I met. Ultimately, in the mid-2000s, I put the question at the heart of a major survey I conducted along with the Gallup Organization. The same answers came back time and again.
Place itself, I began to realize, was the key factor. So much so, that I coined a term—quality of place—to sum it up. I use the term in contrast with the more traditional concept of quality of life to cover the unique set of characteristics that define a place and make it attractive. Over time, my colleagues and I have come to refer to these characteristics as Territorial Assets, the fourth T of economic development after Technology, Talent, and Tolerance (what I have elsewhere called the 3Ts of Economic Growth).
Generally, one can think of quality of place as cutting across three key dimensions:
- What’s there: the combination of the built environment and the natural environment; a stimulating, appealing setting for the pursuit of creative lives.
- Who’s there: diverse people of all ethnicities, nationalities, religions, and sexual orientations, interacting and providing clear cues that this is a community where anyone can fit in and make a life.
- What’s going on: the vibrancy of the street life, café culture, arts, and music; the visible presence of people engaging in outdoor activities—altogether a lot of active, exciting, creative goings-ons.
What’s going on: the vibrancy of the street life, café culture, arts, and music; the visible presence of people engaging in outdoor activities—altogether a lot of active, exciting, creative goings-ons.
Quality of place can be summed up as an interrelated set of experiences. Many, like those provided by the street-level scene, are dynamic and participatory. You can do more than be a spectator; you can become a part of the scene. But while the street buzz is there to be found if you want it, you can also retreat to your home or some other quiet place, chill out in an urban park, or even set out for the country.
Creative-minded people enjoy a mix of influences. They want to hear different kinds of music and try different kinds of food. They want to meet and socialize with people unlike themselves, to trade views and spar over issues. A person’s circle of closest friends might not resemble the Rainbow Coalition—in fact, it usually doesn’t—but creatives want the rainbow to be available.
Authenticity—as in real buildings, real people, real history—is key. A place that’s full of chain stores, chain restaurants, and chain nightclubs is seen as inauthentic. Not only do those venues look pretty much the same everywhere, but they also offer the same experiences you could have anywhere.
Many members of the Creative Class want to have a hand in shaping their communities’ quality of place. Years ago, I attended a meeting of a downtown revitalization group in Providence, Rhode Island. One participant remarked, “My friends and I came to Providence because it already has the authenticity that we like—its established neighborhoods, historic architecture, and ethnic mix.” He went on to implore the group’s leaders to make those qualities the basis of their revitalization efforts and to do so in ways that actively harnessed his and his peers’ energy. Or as he aptly put it, “We want a place that’s not done.”
Quality of place does not occur automatically; it is an ongoing, dynamic process that engages a number of disparate aspects of a community. Like most good things, it is not altogether good: what looks like neighborhood revitalization from one perspective is gentrification from another. Rising housing values often go hand-in-hand with the displacement of long-term residents, a serious problem that demands a serious response.
Full Story: What draws creative people? Quality of place
Source: Urban Land, October 11, 2012