Who's Your City?, by Richard Florida
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Archive for the ‘Pennsylvania’ Category

Philadelphia and New York City

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

I grew up in Chestnut Hill, which is an uppity suburb of Philadelphia even though it is technically still within the city limits. There, I got to enjoy the small town feel (which I have grown to love) while being within a few miles from a thriving city. The ability to have both so close offered a nice escape whenever one became too much.

The community is close knit yet welcoming. There is always a familiar face in town. A major landmark that Chestnut Hill is known for is the beautiful country club that sits just a stone throw away from Main Street. It is there that I spent most of my summers as a child, playing tennis and meeting new friends. It is also where I found myself as a person. Tennis matured me in ways I never expected, and being part of such a community only added to my desires.

Cooking slowly became another love of mine. Chestnut Hill offers many fresh farm products that I was able to explore and pick to my choosing. This helped me explore my talents as a chef and ultimately brought me closer to my family as I started to cook dinner every night. However, nothing is more present in Chestnut Hill then design (probably because most people have the money to spend) and it is here that I found my future. Most homes are unique in architecture, landscape and décor. I was lucky enough to live in such a community where I could admire and study the intricate structure of most homes. Through connections made at the local country club, I was able to obtain an internship with an interior designer. Moreover, through my internship I was able to explore design through others eyes both in Chestnut Hill and downtown Philadelphia. Slowly, I became more confident until I was offering my own suggestions that people took to heart. In other words I had found my niche.

Chestnut Hill offers a connection found in few other places. One can simply walk to the corner to a deli or bakery and trust that everything being sold is fresh and tasty. The town itself is small but it is beautiful, clean and secure. Police and firemen are always close at hand as they are in every town, however they are not as obvious as compared to New York City.

Furthermore, Chestnut Hill is a town for families. Because it offers so much and is so safe, husbands and wives can go off to work or even away on business trips knowing their families will be ok. Thus, there is never a need to worry. The buildings are small, nothing too big and the roads are still made out of cobblestone and brick. This keeping an old town feel that I adore. The schools are within walking distance and offer a few to choose from, all from grades k -12. Hence, Chestnut Hill is a place to raise a family but more importantly it is a place to be with your family. It is a part of who I am. It has led me to go after my future, while still knowing my roots and it will always be my home town.

New York City is unlike anywhere else in the world. People are nonstop, no matter what time of day, location or even holiday. At times it can be so loud due to overpopulation that it is a welcome escape just to hide inside ones apartment. Expenses are ten fold, even subways in which are more traveled then taxi’s due to the cheapness in price add up as the day/week go by. However nothing compares to the beauty of seeing New York City at night. I will never forget my first night at college when I looked outside my 9th floor apartment window. The way in which light reflected off the thousands of lit buildings was like a perfectly contrasted picture… I was breathless. For me New York City was different from back home just from the size of it. Not to mention the millions of people that surrounded me everyday or the thousands among thousands of stores and restaurants within walking distance. Living here opened my eyes to so many more things. Downtown Philadelphia could be fit numerous times just within Central Park. That idea alone boggled my mind.

Moreover, it is always fascinating to me that so many people can live so close to one another and yet be total strangers. This is so different to back home where the whole town knows everyone and is brought together through shared locations. In New York City, people that go to the same restaurant, or the same stores, people that even live in the same building have no desire to introduce themselves. This always reverts me back to my question about life: “how can people be lonely in an overpopulated world?” Yet, New York City offers so many different ethnicities and backgrounds that the design is so different everywhere you look. For me, a Parsons student, it only adds to everything I am learning, as it gives me a visual. In other words, it brings the textbooks to life. Although I miss home I am intrigued by what New York City has to offer, and am thrilled to have the opportunity to grow culturally through living in this wonderful city. Furthermore, I believe it is important for people to move outside of their comfort zones, because it is there that they really start to grow, as individuals in both their profession and life. It is here that I strive for my future. Philadelphia and New York City have many things in common, however the biggest difference is living in Philadelphia I can always leave the city. New York City has no outlet within Manhattan, even its parks and rivers are clustered with people. Hence, it is here that I am most uncomfortable and because of that, I know I am exactly where I need to be.

Sent by Bridget from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Pittsburgher by Choice!

Sunday, July 13th, 2008

View of PittsburghI grew up outside of Worcester, Massachusetts. While I’ve always loved Massachusetts, I felt the need to go away to school. After years of research, I narrowed my choice to Case Western in Cleveland and Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh. When I made my bus trip to the near-mid West, I found I hated Cleveland (except for the Art Museum) and loved Pittsburgh. My choice was easy.

I’ve actually moved to Pittsburgh twice by choice. I wound up marrying a Pittsburgh native. We were part of the great brain-drain of the late ’70s and early ’80s that Pittsburgh experienced – my husband couldn’t get a job in Pittsburgh after he graduated from college and we wound up moving to rural Ohio. After spending 11 years in Massachusetts, we returned to Pittsburgh in 1993.

Pittsburgh had changed quite a lot between 1979 and 1993. Yeah, parts of downtown deteriorated rapidly in the late ’90s and early ’00s, but it is generally coming back now. People are actually moving into condos in downtown. There are an amazing number of small galleries, little theater troupes and small start-up companies.

As part of its brain drain 30 years ago, Pittsburgh experienced a major housing bust. However, it didn’t have the housing boom many other cities had in the ’90s and ’00s. Right now, the cost of housing is declining a little, but not nearly as much as it is in other areas. Affordable housing also makes Pittsburgh an extremely attractive city to settle in.

Pittsburgh seems amazingly underrated by many people. When I ran a conference in Pittsburgh in 1999 that attracted about 250 people from all over the country, almost everyone liked the city. I like to call Pittsburgh “the nicest city you’ve never been to.”

Sent by Laurie Mann from Pittsburgh, PA

Who’s Your Chi-Pitts?

Saturday, March 15th, 2008

Here’s an excerpt of an interview where I discuss some of my favorite Midwest cities – from Dayton to Pittsburgh by Tracy Certo of Pop City and Soapbox:

Help me better understand the connection between living in a powerful mega-region like Chi-Pitts but in a city in that region that’s in transition.

Chicago’s growth really sucked up all of the services and headquarters functions and lawyering and financial and accountancy that used to be done in the Detroits, the Pittsburghs, the Cincinnatis, the Akrons, the Toledos. Chicago has become in a way the business and financial center for the Chi-Pitts regions, and it’s become extraordinarily expensive.

So, one can make quite a nice life in a Cincinnati if they find ways to connect to that Chi-Pitts mega region. The places in the mega region that are really at an advantage are places like Ann Arbor. So, the college towns in that mega region have a particular advantage.

How can a city in this mega-region, like Cincinnati, Detroit or Pittsburgh, better compete in the global economy? Is it a matter of amenities or mindset or both?

First of all, I think they all have this great advantage, in a nearly 2 trillion dollar mega region which is one of the most innovative on the planet. They’re also close to the second largest mega-region on the planet, the number one in North America which is the Bos-Wash (Boston-Washington). The question is how do they want to compete?

I was just in Cincinnati and in Dayton, another city I love. They’re historical centers of innovation, every one from steel innovation to aluminum innovation, to electronics, to the Wright Brothers, to the car. This is one of the greatest innovative and entrepreneurial centers in the world. They have probably one of the greatest clusters of universities, in the history of the planet. They’re producing phenomenal talent, but unfortunately, that talent leaves. So, in Rise of the Creative Class, I said the one thing that it needs to become is more open minded and tolerant. It needs to be more diverse and inclusive.

Some of that’s happening in certain parts of the region. More foreign people are moving in, though not enough, in the Cincinnatis and Pittsburghs. They’re becoming more open minded to the gay and lesbian population, though by no means, not enough. I don’t think it’s a question of making jazzier restaurants or hipper bike trails. I think it’s a question of being more open-minded.

Another thing the region suffers from is really poor leadership. And I think the reason that is, it really bears the imprint that as the economy is changing to newer things, away from manufacturing, the leadership still reflects that top-down, vertical, 1950s organization mentality so you get these conflicts between old-style democratic political machine and business-led organizations. Those conflicts become very dysfunctional. I think one of the other things is that if older cities could achieve better leadership, leadership that was more in tune with the future.

We were working with 30 community catalysts in greater Dayton a couple weeks ago and I was blown away by what’s happened in downtown Dayton. It’s a more interesting and exciting place, filled with arts and restaurants and renovated houses and buildings. But too how these thirty catalysts, black, white, young, old, Hispanic, Latino, how much they cared about making their city better. And I think that’s the kind of thing you see in parts of Ohio and Illinois, there’s this incredible sense that people care, and I think unleashing that energy in people is really key.

The rest is here.