This post is part of a series covering ULI Toronto’s Fall Symposium which took place November 2nd and 3rd at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. The inaugural symposium, Emerging Trends and City Building, saw hundreds of industry professionals gather to be a part of the ongoing dialogue on the future of urban development. Since publishing his book “The Rise of the Creative Class” in 2004, Richard Florida has had time to reflect on the changing political, economic and physical landscape of cities. As he addressed an engaged audience at the ULI Toronto Fall Symposium on the morning of November 2nd, Florida discussed his evolving views on the successes and challenges of reinventing cities to allow them to become more dense and urban environments.
As industries moved to developing countries, Western cities reinvented themselves around knowledge, innovation and creativity. The creative class, as Florida defines it, is comprised of knowledge-based workers, including those in healthcare, business and finance, the legal sector and education. Florida suggests that in Toronto, 38% of people work in the creative economy and that percentage increases up to 75% in the downtown core. However, as there has been this shift to a creative economy, Florida believes many citizens feel city building has emphasized the privileged who work in this creative field. In Toronto, 45% of workers are part of the service class. Florida attests that to address what he calls “a new urban crisis” we need to build a new more inclusive kind of urbanism.
Below are five key elements that Florida identified as components of a solution to this new urban crisis:
Engaging our politicians: Florida believes that we need to do a better job of balancing the needs of the suburban and urban communities. In engaging our political powers to build a strong city and region, we strengthen our competitiveness and create demand for new kinds of economies and activities.
Density: We need density and not just in the core. Our current zoning by-laws were born out of our industrial past and cities need to be open to reinventing zoning for a creative economy.
Suburban retrofit: Suburban renewal will be our next big challenge. The majority of our populations live in suburban communities. These areas don’t have the same infrastructure and quality of buildings as the cores of cities and will require significant investment to adapt to a more urban environment. To create strong and competitive mega-regions we need to better connect cities and suburbs.
Invest in transit: All across North America, developments are reinvigorating downtown cores and urban spaces along transit lines as people look to avoid long commutes.
Commit to quality of place: We can no longer build cheap, disposable communities if we want to retain and attract people and investment in our cities. Florida believes that it is the role of the City to create places that act as the economic and social containers of the creative economy. It is these places where people meet, go to school, and access potential partners and jobs.
Florida concluded his discussion by putting forth the notion that cities need to work harder to engage all citizens. “We have seen our cities come back, and are beginning to see our suburbs remade. At the same time a new a new urban crisis awaits us,” said Florida. The inequality and segregation we see in cities is a result of ignoring too many people from our society over the last decade and Florida believes that we need a stronger commitment to our service workers going ahead.