Revitalizing Urban Cores

We’ve all seen the movie. A bustling inner city experiences the flight of people and businesses to the outer edges or suburban locations and then falls on hard times. The city becomes a suburban story and lacks the creative core that attracts younger people and new residents. The economy falters.

This could be the Brooklyn story, the Newark story, the Detroit story, the Buffalo story, the Cleveland story and many other stories.

We’ve seen that things can be turned around. The economic and cultural juggernaut that is Brooklyn right now is a perfect example. The grandchildren of the people who fled Brooklyn in the fifties and sixties are now coming back in droves, attracted to its lifestyle, its coffee shops, bars, restaurants, art and culture, parks, and affordable real estate. And the tech companies are coming too. Attracted by all the talent that is there.

I’ve been asked by civic leaders from places like Newark, Cleveland, Buffalo, and a number of other upstate NY cities that have suffered a similar fate how they can do the same thing. They all talk about tax incentives, connecting with local research universities, and providing startup capital. And I tell them that they are focusing on the wrong thing.

You have to lead with lifestyle. If you can’t make your city a place where the young mobile talent leaving college or grad school wants to go to start their career, meet someone, and build a life, all that other stuff doesn’t matter.

So it was really great to see what Tony Hsieh and his colleagues are doing at the Downtown Project in Las Vegas. The Gotham Gal has made a number of investments with Tony and his team and so she asked if we could get a tour of their efforts while we are in Vegas this weekend for our friends’ wedding. We spent most of Friday touring the work they are doing. And it is impressive.

The downtown Vegas story is a similar one. The hotels and casinos left downtown for the strip in the fifties and sixties and the city center faded leading to crime and decay. It was a tough place to live and/or work.

When Tony moved Zappos from the suburbs to the former City Hall in downtown Vegas a few years ago, he decided to invest $350mm in a massive urban revitalization project. He set aside $200mm to purchase land at bargain prices and the other $150mm to invest in three areas, arts and culture, small businesses (restaurants, cafes, bars, markets, boutiques, etc), and tech startups. $50mm is going into each area.

I was particularly impressed with The Container Park which opened late last year and houses food shops, boutiques, a playground, live music performances, and is a great place to hang out with friends and family. Here’s a photo I took while we were enjoying tacos at lunch on a sunny day in downtown las vegas.

container park

They have also taken a number of residential and hotel buildings and converted them into low cost and attractive housing for the hundreds of college grads who are moving to Las Vegas to work in the tech startups that are cropping up everywhere, largely funded by Tony’s Vegas Tech Fund.

You can feel the excitement and energy in the coworking spaces that are cropping up all over the place. There is a sense of purpose that goes beyond building a startup. They are also building a community and revitalizing a city.

It’s too early to know if this audacious project will work. But I think it has a decent shot. And mostly because Tony and his team focused on art, culture, lifestyle, housing, night life, parks, and recreation first and foremost. That’s the only model that I think can work and it seems like its working in Las Vegas right now.


Comments (Archived):

  1. William Mougayar

    “You have to lead with lifestyle.” That says it all. The vibrancy of a city is so important, and a lot of it comes from the younger generation.In the taxi this week from LaGuardia to Manhattan, to my right was the Brooklyn’s skyline which I barely recognized. It’s like a mini- Manhattan.Toronto has a humongous Waterfront rejuvenation project which is supposed to include all kinds of exciting urban/tech/cultural/lifestyle developments, but it appears to be slow-moving and government-influence heavy http://www.waterfrontoronto….

    1. Guest

      @wmoug:disqus I zoomed your pic to study the marvelous pork-pie hat and only then saw the humongous Magritte reference

      1. Guest

        Dammit how do you delete images in Disqus ???? – HelpBTW its not the “not a pipe” I want to delete !

        1. fredwilson

          this has been an issue for a while. i think you have to delete the comment and start over again. which, of course, is not right

          1. Guest

            Thanks Fred – Will do (I guess my graphs looks a bit weirdly out of context – pretty though it is)

          2. awaldstein

            I don’t think you can do this Fred.I’ve complained but it has engendered the very worse behavior which is not to use a great feature.

          3. James Ferguson @kWIQly

            @fredwilson:disqus Fred – Now I attempted to delete the comments and I am seeing them but as guest posts which naturally I cannot deletePerhaps if I spent less time teasing your moderators things would work smoother :)However it is a spectacular William that we behold !

          4. LE

            Even if you do it that way the image lives on their CDN and does not get deleted.

          5. ShanaC

            I wish the images were attached to moderation emails…..

    2. James Ferguson @kWIQly

      @wmoug:disqus – Did you ever pose for Magritte – The evidence is building !

      1. William Mougayar

        LOL. It’s all an illusion :)I think it’s a newsboy / flat cap type, no?

        1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

          It is very becoming – Did you ever see this fantastic advertIt takes a couple of seconds to start playing – but I guess its you as a youngster (Perhaps the accents a bit off:)…

          1. William Mougayar

            funny. was that scottish bread?

  2. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    Urban Gardens – the greening of the grey, community, safety, transport – (and get rid of restrictive planning regulations that disincents novation) – get these right and I guess the rest will find their way

  3. jason wright

    in my city the rot set in some years ago. many retail units are vacant, and there’s oodles of empty office space.

    1. pointsnfigures

      tell and

  4. JLM

    .The first thing that must be done to revitalize any city center is safety. Physical safety in the form of law enforcement and safety in the form of fire protection and EMS.City centers were the first picks when they were originally built and thus they are usually the best locations. This is particularly true when there is a water body involved.One of the critical skills in any such endeavor is the ability to renovate, rehabilitate, restore and reuse existing structures (adaptive reuse).This requires a bit of regulatory flexibility as building codes have leapfrogged over existing structures. A collaboration with codes and code enforcers.Public transportation can also be important but not necessarily critical.The city center is also usually a good property tax and services bet. Property taxes are levied on dense growth and services are usually in existence. While fighting a fire in a high rise (very rare) is a tough assignment the magnitude of required fire protection services is much less than a comparable suburban area.The other big key is, believe it or not, parks.I have a personal theory that one of the drivers of the reuse of downtowns is related to the social implications of closer living and density. The suburbs can be lifeless and anonymous while the center city can be more dense and intimate. This is a parallel to what is happening with social media.JLM.

    1. fredwilson

      yup. tony’s number one measure of success is “collisions”. he wants people to literally bump into each other.good point on safety

      1. Brandon G. Donnelly

        Safety is a big concern. I was touring around Detroit last fall (have a friend working on urban renewal projects there) and Dan Gilbert (Quicken Loans founder who’s buying up the city) had deployed security guards all across downtown. Now people are going out there to party at night.

        1. JLM

          .It really is that simple.The Quiken story in Detroit is a perfect example of basic free market economics being the driver of entrepreneurial zeal and successful urban renewal.Gilbert has hit a huge home run from the perspective of his company’s real estate costs, real estate investment and civic pride.The linkage between safety, security and a robust social fabric is simple. They are the threads that are woven into a tapestry of success.JLM.

        2. Jason Novack

          Downtown Project is doing a great job solving the safety issue by integrating it with the classic Zappos focus on customer service. Their “rangers” are the friendliest security guards you’ll find anywhere, and are also trained to answer any questions and give visitor tours.

    2. jason wright

      reliable, clean, safe, and cheap (competing factors i know, especially the first three against the fourth) public transport is another crucial ingredient.I’d like to see a city somewhere take a stand and move to exclude the internal combustion engine from its center in favour of the electric powered car. the shift in consumer choice would be rapid.

      1. fredwilson


      2. LE

        Year ago in Philly they tried to ban cars from Chestnut street and make it totally pedestrian. They did allow buses either initially or after a period of time. In the end the experiment didn’t work.

      3. Matt A. Myers

        The idea of public transport is accessibility.

        1. jason wright

          by price, point of entry, destination?

          1. Matt A. Myers

            By the values that more accessibility vs. less accessibility provides.

      4. JLM

        .When you start force feeding these things and funding them publicly the entrepreneurial zeal is evaporated.Banning the combustion engine is a bridge too far.Encouraging things like Car Go (Go Car?) and renting bicycles are good. Championing the solution always beats the Hell out of banning the problem.Besides where are the nerds, geeks and entrepreneurs going to park their BMWs?JLM.

        1. jason wright

          In Paris pollution is so bad that geeks are only permitted to drive their BMWs on alternate days. they should all emigrate to Austin immediately.

          1. JLM

            .You obviously possess a superb mind, Jason. I like the way you think.I will prepare the way for them.Remember there is a Paris, Texas.JLM.

          2. jason wright

            good morning JLM.I remember the film.the French like revolutionary policies, and it has merit. most people go through life half asleep. they need waking up with little sudden shocks now and again.

        2. Frank Fumarola

          I would agree that banning the combustion engine is a bit far. I think the answer lies a little bit down the continuum of just taxing them appropriately to cover their negative externalities. Any money made off of these taxes should be used to create better mass transit, parks, and pedestrian friendly infrastructure.Every time I take the NYC subway I get reminded how egalitarian it is. Philly’s subway (my current city)… not so much.

          1. JLM

            .Frank, taking capital out of the economy is never the right answer. The friction of collecting taxes is enormous. Look what a monster the IRS has become.The NY subways were free market enterprises at their birth. They were overrun with corruption and taken over by the owner of last resort — the losses were made public, the gains were privatized.The place to spend the money is on incentives. Incentivize the behaviors you want to mimic and they will be funded and led by private enterprise.Look at the SBA in which the government’s role is to guaranty against losses, not to actually fund real money v the grants made to folks like Solyndra.Government is not good at picking winners.JLM.

          2. Frank Fumarola

            I’m open to being convinced… I just don’t see the alternative from my perspective.We have massive infrastructures that are incredibly expensive to operate and maintain. This is all tasked to the government as it stands.Roads / bridges: The government collects usage taxes (gas tax, tolls, etc) but it’s pretty well documented that car owners and companies are not paying their “fair share” to keep these roads maintained. Simply continuing the status quo of allowing cars to pay minimal gas taxes, drive into our cities without paying congestion taxes, and then pay a laughable rent (aka parking meters) just doesn’t seem sustainable.Mass transit infrastructure: The government collects a transit fare to offset the cost of the services provided. This is typically a losing proposition, as well.I fully support taking a loss on transit and charging cars more to at least cover their fair share since it is an activity that has so many negative externalities.Can you help me frame a solution that perhaps would align itself with your world view?

          3. JLM

            ..The answer to almost everything these days is to grow the economy. A growing economy will lift all boats.The economy is anemic because of the incompetence and inattention of our government and leadership.Compare Texas and California. Two decidedly different governing philosophies and two decidedly different outcomes.One has a progressive energy policy and the other has a repressive energy policy.What has this administration done to grow the economy or to create jobs?Nothing.The President’s last budget submittal — a month and a half late — included increased spending and increased taxes. It is DOA.OBAMAcare fails to deliver on the most basic promises that were given to drive the decision.This is not difficult to do and to do well. Eisenhower balanced 8 straight budgets while facing down the Russians, building America’s nuclear arsenal and developing the Interstate Highway system — nifty little piece of infrastructure, no?Gingrich and Clinton found a way to work together.JLM.

    3. awaldstein

      Biggest corner case exception to the park idea (which I buy into) is LA. Really a park less city for the most part.

      1. gjg

        Griffith Park is only one of the largest urban parks in North America! Of course it probably doesn’t count since it’s not located in NYC πŸ˜‰

        1. awaldstein

          I know this park well as I lived in LA for almost 8 years building two different companies.But–and I love the park–it is hardly an urban park where the mass urban citizenry can get there easily and experience it as part of the urban daily experience.Parks as part of the city they belong to, as part of the culture of how you live there is what I was referring to.The West side has the beach, central and east, not much.

          1. gjg

            Well if you live on the West Side you can’t easily get there, but there’s Will Rogers for West Siders. But most of the West Side is LA in county name only. If you live in the city of LA, Griffith is completely accessible. I get what you’re saying though, even though I don’t really agree with it.

          2. awaldstein

            Not an argument.I really love LA. But living in BH/West Hollywood there was simply no greenery I could bike to easily.As a New Yorker, I sorely missed this.

          3. gjg

            if you couldn’t bike from Hollywood to griffith park, i don’t know what to tell you. i live in hollywood (beachwood canyon) and walk there most days. often from the red line station at vermont and sunset.

          4. Donna Brewington White

            The last few times I’ve driven through Griffith Park (mostly to visit Travel Town and to ride the miniature trains — I have a son who is a train addict) I would say it has certainly taken on the makeup of an urban park.

          5. JLM

            .The beach and the beachfront are a park functionally.JLM.

          6. awaldstein

            Absolutely.So if you live in Beverly Hills or West Hollywood of the unincorported areas around them though you are parkless .

          7. Donna Brewington White

            I don’t have much to compare to since I spent my childhood and teens in either rural towns or rural neighborhoods and my entire adult life in greater Los Angeles. I have always found an abundance of parks here from Wilshire West/Beverly Hills adjacent to Westside to Pasadena then Malibu/Topanga/Palisades. But a lot of them I’ve had to drive to until my current neighborhood where Malibu Creek State Park is almost literally my back yard and I am once again rural. So maybe that is what you mean — parks that are at the center of a community. Then I’d say, not so much.

    4. falicon

      There is a great TED talk that tells the story of turning around Tirana, Albania…starting by simply painting the buildings and adding a bit of color (which fed into the whole city feeling safer…and then actually *becoming* safer) ->

      1. JLM

        .Color is the cheapest and quickest way to change the physical plant in a positive manner.JLM.

  5. Drew Meyers

    This all comes back to “community” in my mind. Cities would be smart to pick a specific lifestyle niche, and do whatever it takes to build a vibrant community around that — then let that community slowly bring their friends to the party.

  6. Brandon G. Donnelly

    Great topic. I actually wrote something similar on my blog as a follow-up to your post on Buffalo’s business plan competition (…. You’re bang on about building the city first. If young people don’t want to live your city (see rise of “Consumer City”), it doesn’t matter how much money you throw at startups. We’re living at time where–in a lot of cases–people first pick the city they want to live in and then consider how they’re going to make money.

  7. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    For anyone interestedURL UK Forestry commission on the benefits of green infrastructure (Urban Regeneration and Greenspace partnership

  8. LE

    The economic and cultural juggernaut that is Brooklyn right now is a perfect example.I think that the fact that Brooklyn is so close to Manhattan and that living in Manhattan is so expensive (and desirable) plays a really large role in that phenomenon. For sure.The closest that I can think of might be Camden being located next to Philly but if you look at Philly it’s not nearly as desirable as living in NYC metro and hence the price of real estate in Philly is somewhat reasonable and nothing is happening (like Brooklyn) in Camden.

    1. fredwilson

      Absolutely. The inability to affordably live in Manhattan was one of, maybe the catalyst that led to the revitalization of Brooklyn

    2. JLM

      .Camden is one of the most unsafe cities in the US.JLM.

      1. LE

        But yet right now I am about 6 miles from Camden and in about as safe of a community as can be.One thing that people never consider though if they try to “clean up” an area. Where is the bad element going to live? [1]I guess this is sort of the reason in a way for ghettos. There will always be a bad element and the bad element is going to live somewhere. Along with that bad element though there are people that live in the same community that aren’t the bad element. They are there for other reasons of poverty or lack of opportunity. So how exactly do you solve that problem? Meaning what do you do with the people that just aren’t going to be able to be rehabilitated?[1] Anyone quick to judge that this is some kind of racist comment stop jumping to your low hanging fruit conclusion.

  9. LE

    Vegas is a great place. I went there for the first time this year after resisting it my whole life.But the thing that is missing from Tony’s commitment (from what you wrote above I haven’t looked into it) is a way to attract people once they get past the dink stage (dual income, no kids).You know what that is?Schools.The first thing that anyone with kids of a certain age wants to know is “what are the schools like”.The Tony approach works well with kids out of college who aren’t thinking about what will be important to them when their kids are of school age.So with respect to this:$150mm to invest in three areas, arts and culture, small businesses (restaurants, cafes, bars, markets, boutiques, etc), and tech startups. $50mm is going into each area….something needs to be added to that. School infrastructure and education.Maybe that will naturally follow with the type of people that are moving into the area. Maybe not.

    1. fredwilson

      Tony is investing in schools

      1. LE

        I’m seeing now (after searching) that he is. I’m wondering what the cost of that private school will be though.…”…

        1. Nick

          The school Tony’s invested in to-date, 9th Bridge, is out of range for most Vegas residents. Kindergarten is $15.5k/yr or $17k for a full day. That may not seem like a lot if you live in SF or NYC, but for Vegas cost of living and salaries, it’s astronomical.

    2. pointsnfigures

      Not exclusively the public schools though. Charters and vouchers would work faster.

      1. LE

        The thing I would want to know (if I was a parent with school age kids) [1] is how likely my kid was to get into the charter school. How many spaces. If you choose a house in an area with good public schools it’s not an issue. If you want to send your kid to boarding school and have the money it’s (generally) not an issue.Charter schools are a step in the right direction but they don’t solve all the issues. Not everyone is going to go to the charter school, right? Are the vouchers given out by the company that you work for? What if you leave? How does that impact “my startup” that wants to locate there and competes with you?[1] Actually my step kids are. My kids are in college.

        1. pointsnfigures

          That’s why vouchers are a great idea.

  10. awaldstein

    NYC metro really understands that urban areas are brands built naturally out of the communities that live there.Park Slope, Williamsburg are each individual brands rolling up to Brooklyn. A geography of diversity that has a sense of itself.True I think for Austin, parts of LA and others.Greatest failures are when you don’t start with the belief that each place has its unique sense of being which in turn is it’s brand to itself and the outside world.Biggest mistake is starting with merchants as the driver. They don’t drive the population, the population drives them.

    1. LE

      Biggest mistake is starting with merchants as the driver. They don’t drive the population, the population drives them.I think that Starbucks uses gays as a canary in the coal mine for where to locate new shops.That said there is no doubt that having certain merchants and retail atmosphere can make a place more attractive as a place to live.

  11. James Fayal

    Did you meet any of the Venture for America ( fellows during your trip? Tony has been amazing supporter of the program and now has something like 30 of the fellows out there. Personally, I’m a fellow in Philly and we’re still looking for a figurehead, like Tony, in our own city. Kopelman has been a solid supporter so far though.

  12. David Lin

    I’m working on a side project of creating a non-profit accelerator at York University in Toronto, Canada. I can see some lessons to take from the work of Tony.

  13. ShanaC

    There is one problem with this discussion of gentrification in brooklyn : it’s historically wrongThere was a significant gentrification movement in the 500 which laid the groundwork for today…What sped up the gentrification process was the development of people who were single for long periods of time moving into these same areas. Many wanted thier o n units and had more cash to spend, but the groundwork was already there.You see this in a lot of cities. Las Vega lacks that infrastructure to invest inMeanwhile I’ve heard of people moving to buffalo to refurbished houses the way couples did in the 50s

    1. Salt Shaker

      Brooklyn’s revitalization driven solely by Manhattan becoming unaffordable. Middle class and young adults are being pushed out. Practically all areas of Brook have or are becoming gentrified, even the worst parts, with historically high crime rates. My niece coincidentally told me last night that all her close friends now live in Brooklyn.

      1. ShanaC

        So why were lawyers and bankers moving to these areas in the 60s?

        1. Salt Shaker

          Think you’re referring solely to Park Slope. Not sure anyone was migrating to any other part of Brook back then, w/ the exception maybe of Caroll Gardens. Nonetheless, living in Brook was still a bit of an eye roller. You could buy a brownstone bldg very, very inexpensively compared to Manhattan. Turned out to be fab investments. Artists and hipsters migrated to Williamsburg/Greenpoint past 20 yrs and virtually all other areas in Brook only started to gentrify past 5-10.. Article in yesterday’s NYT says 1-bedroom apts now less expensive to rent on UES than Brooklyn. UES looked upon as a FL retirement village by many under 30. Crazy trend reversal.

  14. pointsnfigures

    The key is sustainability. Younger people come, but you want them to stay. What causes them to stay? As JLM said, safety. Parks and places for free recreation are good (Chicago has more park space than any other city in the country) Education is also key. Younger people get married. They have kids. In Chicago, there are very few public schools you’d want to send your kids to. Catholic/Jewish schools are affordable, but not everyone wants a Catholic school. That’s when they move to the burbs-and might move somewhere else. I think the ability to have a parking lot culture is key too-when a startup fails, there needs to be enough of a community to catch on to another one-OR, have a big company that is okay with having a small revolving door of employment in and out.Vegas is making great strides. 0% income taxes. Lots of sun. Cheap property and cost of living. Hope they can pull it off. The more cities that can get a startup community the better. A rising tide lifts all boats. This is about making more pie, not fighting for slices of it.

  15. Kirsten Lambertsen

    I’ll make my usual mention of Providence as another model for this discussion and one that definitely has gotten the lifestyle part right.Not to knock Hsieh, but in many ways maybe it’s better to have a more diversified base of revitalization rather than having it mostly come from one guy? Just food for thought…

  16. leigh

    I was listening to a CBC (Canadian NPR) talking about large Corp tax evasion and was specifically talking about Google who avoided US tax through a series of manoeuvres of using tax havens and shifting dollars from place to place. Then they talked about 5 huge Cnd. Corp who paid ZERO tax for 5 yrs. (My company tax bill just came in and let me say, hearing this and knowing what i have to pay did not make me happy).The biggest consequence that they were talking about with Tax avoidance, is the fact that ultimately infrastructure, education and citiies suffer. Long term that impacts everybody.I LOVE what Tony is doing. Responsible Capitalism is such a key way forward to supporting healthy city ecosystems.

  17. jstylman

    Thanks for writing this post, Fred.This topic is one I’ve been fascinated with for years. For others that are interested, please do yourself a favor and read Death & Life of Great American Cities (, written by the late great Jane Jacobs, one of the preeminent thinkers on Urban Studies.I imagine Jane would be a fan of some of what’s happening in places like the ones mentioned. Other elements, however – especially urban renewal – would have irked her to no end. Either way, it seems like an inflection point for cities across America. Something we should be discussing, for sure.

  18. sigmaalgebra

    There are some common dreams, and I will mentionthree:(1) Noah’s Ark. Get a chunk of land, maybe 100,000acres, and a lot of animals and set up a ‘gamepreserve’. So maybe have an African theme –elephants, lions, rhinoceri, hyenas, dung beetles,wildebeest, etc. There could be a deep water themewith sharks, grouper, octopi, etc. And could havean American theme with bison, ground hogs, ferrets,and maybe someday mastodon.(2) Kumbayah. A tight knit, dense community witheveryone for the community and the community foreveryone. So, everyone feels connected, not alone,and secure. So, minimize private cars and uses ofevil carbon and have lots of artists on the streets,painting, taking photographs, performing, etc.(3) Own World. There is one guy, a father figure,with a community. The father figure leads,provides, and/or runs everything. Otherwise thereare lots of little people, hard working, happy,grateful. Everyone is happy in this paradise.Undesirables are kept out. No big box stores;instead, lots of charming, elegant boutiques. NoGMOs; instead, lots of 100% all-natural, certifiedorganic, low fat, high fiber, gluten free vegetablesreadily available at charming, open air farmers’markets that also serve as community gatheringplaces. Low cost of living and high wages! There isno dissension. It’s a near utopia.How to get the dreams? Sure, much, much, really atleast one factor of 10, more in economicproductivity. How to do that? Sure, use computingto automate nearly everything. How to get thatautomation? Sure, work out important cases and dostartups to deliver the results. Did we mentionstartups?

  19. Salt Shaker

    Weekend in Vegas Fred? There was ur chance to let it all ride on black. Better odds than investing in start-ups πŸ™‚

  20. ZekeV

    Similar to the development philosophy of Two Trees in Dumbo, Brooklyn.

  21. PhilipSugar

    Warning: Cranky old man alert!I am on record as loving Vegas and Tony Hsieh. I love his thoughts on happiness.If you are Cleveland, Detroit, Buffalo, Fulton and Oswego you aren’t going to become the place that hipsters want to move.Not short term or long term.So what can you concentrate on? Kicking the hipsters asses by having lower cost and better quality. Then once you build it they will come.Now you are totally hamstrung because you have loaded up your tax infrastructure with fat pensions and union contracts which have now come due, so you know you have to fix that with taxes breaks, but now you are screwed because as soon as those go expire people move.BTW: What makes you be able to do this in Vegas is that there are a bunch of old cranky men like me that make sure things like state income tax are how much???? Zero.Frankly, I think places like Belize, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Uruguay have a better chance of recruiting me to move because they don’t have the legacy costs.When I get really cranky, I tell people you watch people move out of the city, then the state, and then eventually the country. People really didn’t like that when they saw the one guy from Facebook try to move.

    1. JLM

      .The number of people legally renouncing their American citizenship is at epidemic proportions compared to the last 20 years. People are really mad at government.The number who are doing it illegally — moving to San Miguel, Huatulco, Belize — are likely a tidal wave.The north to sunbelt migration in the US is like a lifetime nomadic movement.The number of Californians moving to Austin, Texas is phenomenal. You can’t swing a cat on a ten foot leash without hitting a Californian. I guess “former” should be in that sentence somewhere, no?Last week I was caught in some SXSW traffic and I identified state license plates from about 15 different states. My favorite BBQ place was filled to overflowing with hipsters.The Internet is letting folks see the possibilities better than ever before.JLM.

    2. Dave Pinsen

      We subsidize multigenerational poverty in urban cores, which makes them unsafe, and scares away hipsters and techies. Logically, this makes no sense.

    3. John Risner

      Re Cleveland, Detroit, Buffalo and other heartland cities, I don’t think they are trying to attract “hipsters” to move there as much as trying to keep homegrown talent. I heard Dan Gilbert speak once of how he noticed years ago that the Groupon Founders Brad Keywell and Eric Lefkofsky were Univ of MI grads and felt they had to move to Chicago to launch. He wants Detroit to offer that same opportunity.It is not a zero sum game, but rather growing the pie.

  22. LukeG

    It turns out that one of the best predictors of gentrification is artist density. Artists move to cheap neighborhoods and build culture and communities that make those neighborhoods desirable.The back half of that pattern is that artists (et al) are eventually forced out by rising rents/costs. It’ll be interesting to explore new models of ownership and participation through which the people and communities that make places desirable β€” or just “make places” β€” are rewarded for their contributions.

    1. ShanaC

      My neighborhood has not gentrified to the same degree – despite being full of actors.

  23. John Risner

    JLM hit it first on safety, and LE and others on importance of schools. What Tony Hsieh is doing in Vegas, and Dan Gilbert is doing in Detroit follow the same model:1. Invest in cheap urban cores – LV and Detroit2. Move jobs there – Zappos and Quicken Loans3. Supplement public safety with private security force4. Fund startups – Vegas Tech Fund, Detroit Venture Partners, Bizdom 5. Improve schools – arguable the hardest and longest part of the equation.It will be interesting to see how tech leaders bring needed change to the education system. Expect to see more home schooling using online resources like Kahn Academy – not just in LV and Detroit, but Brooklyn and other cities as well. Maybe time for another hacking education day.Brooklyn doesn’t have a corporate champion on the scale of these two, but that role is filled by Manhattan, strong public trans, and growing startup community.What hasn’t been mentioned yet is broadband. Seeing lots of articles on Chattanooga and KC and what real broadband means to startups and consumers.

  24. Yinka!

    I’m visiting downtown vegas for a couple months from Canuckland and experiencing the community. It’s been amazing to see the ongoing changes. Being design oriented, I also like the fact that Vegas has a vibrant art district close to downtown. Fred, are you and Gotham Gal still in Vegas?

  25. Rob Underwood

    I’ve lived in Brooklyn for 14 years. My wife and I rented in Prospect Heights for two years (in a building, 475 Dean, which was subsequently torn down for Atlantic Yards/the Barclay’s Center). In 2002 we bought the top floor of a brownstone in North Park Slope in 2002. I remember after having made the offer sitting with my wife in Freddy’s (also now gone, again torn down to make way for Atlantic Yards / Barclay’s Center – the business itself did relocate to South Slope) — we were both panicked that we had brought at the top of the market.Roll forward 12 years and our place is now double the value, at least on paper (and the impacts of the Barclay’s Center on our quality of life have proven less disruptive than I had anticipated, though the ends will never justify the means of eminent domain in my opinion). That appreciation is nice – it’s allowed us to re-finance into the 3s and re-do our kitchen and bathroom. Where we live in Brooklyn we have generally strong district public schools which are getting even better due to lots of efforts both public and private (including some by Fred), as well as a number of charter and private options as well.But the affordability of Brooklyn, both to buy and rent, especially in the northwest part (“brownstone brooklyn” + the “hispter neighborhoods” of Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and Bushwick) is seriously on the wane. It’s basically a push, to put it in Vegas terms, now between Manhattan and much of Brooklyn. One recent article on the topic is…. So now it’ll be interesting to see how Brooklyn evolves and grows when affordability is not its primary attraction.There is also the issue of gentrification, which has been a hot topic again recently in light of Spike Lee’s comments. How can “newcomers” (Brooklyn is like my home state of Maine in that you’re never really a native unless you’re born here) like me work hard to preserve Brooklyn’s character and diversity (both economic and racial)? How do we make sure this is a place that honors and respects the communities that were here before the influx? How do we keep our schools from becoming even more segregated than they already are? How do we maintain and create affordable housing stock so our firefighters and nurses need not all live in the suburbs?As others have pointed out, I think Brooklyn is a totally different animal from Detroit, Buffalo, Cleveland etc – even Newark, simply because it IS New York City. From my house to Wall Street is the same distance as the Upper East Side to Wall Street. So Brooklyn, in a way, always will have a role as a bedroom community to Manhattan. That said, tech and other industries (including a re-vitalization of some light manufacturing) are starting to thrive, so Brooklyn may have the best of both worlds — native businesses like Etsy and Makerbot combined with close proximity to finance, media, and Manhattan tech.Finally, it’s worthing noting too that Brooklyn attracted so many from Manhattan not only because of affordability, but the quality of the housing stock as well, in particular the brownstones. It was not a sure thing in the 60s and 70s that these buildings would survive, especially in the quantity they did. The walkability and livability of Brooklyn combined with the affordability were the draw – take the quality away and I don’t think the same evolution happens. Along with its proximity to Manhattan, the huge volume of pre-war housing stock is a key difference from many other cities in the US.[Side note: The movie “Brooklyn for Brooklyn” is on rotation on Audience now; also on Netflix, etc. Undoubtedly the movie has a bias and side, but still worth a watch as lot of these issues are examined in it]

    1. JLM

      .Keen, real world real estate insights.Well played.JLM.

    2. Rob Underwood

      Follow up to this discussion. From the The Daily News “Soaring Brooklyn rents have tenants searching for more affordable apartments β€” in Manhattan” –

  26. JGMc

    One issue with this approach is “you have to buy into trickle down economics to believe that a bunch of college kids moving into (and, gentrifying) an area will lead to prosperity forthe poor”, as my friend Greg Meier points out (Greg runs RevolutionsLabs that is helping inner city residents build new businesses).Also see this this recent article: Detroit Doesn’t Need Hipsters To Survive, It Needs Black People. http://www.huffingtonpost.c….

  27. Donna Brewington White

    This movement…emergence of startup ecosystems in urban areas resulting in revitalization of these areas …is one of the most encouraging and exciting economic developments in our nation. Yet another reason to be thoroughly excited about and supportive of entrpreneurship. It was especially heartwarming for me to recently learn of the startup ecosystem emerging in Detroit. If ever there was a city in need of revitalization and redemption!



  29. Nadia McDonald

    This is an incredible idea!

  30. jason wright

    Another view of what’s happening to London’s tech startup scene;…with reader comments.

  31. Robert Bushnell

    You have got to lead with lifestyle. This is exactly right and is also the key to revitalising or keeping alive rural regions that suffer from young people moving away be it emigration or to urban centres in the same country – like what happens in Ireland. The rural region will prosper if it has a good lifestyle – in this case for families – for the people who want the “rural style” living such as nature, recreation, water, quietness, scenary etc. etc.

  32. d_politzEiE

    Sounds like the ribbon cutting on a new innovation district similar to the ones popping up in Brooklyn as mentioned but also from Boston to Austin. Short blog on the Boston ID and an outline of what these areas strive towards. I.E.:-Promote collaboration-Provide public space and programming-Develop a 24-hour neighborhood…

  33. Drew Meyers

    I’m a member of Impact HUB, and am a big big fan of the community they are building.

  34. LE

    I’m as impressed and wish we had those kind of resources around hereI think what Lancaster (where Charlie is) lacks is that it’s not near or “on the way” to something that people find important.Just like people want 4 wheel drive for the few times it snows, they want to live somewhere that is not off the beaten path.I’m always amazed at the amount of people that choose a place to live by the fact that there is “culture” there but I wonder how often people actually take advantage of that culture. In other words could they live farther away from the culture, save money, and just travel to the culture for the amount of times they wanted it? This is the “4 wheel drive effect”. It’s a rationalization that you need something more than you actually do. You want to feel as if you could use it at any time even though you won’t.So the point is if Lancaster were 40 minutes from Manhattan that would be one thing. And it’s not that there aren’t people who like that country lifestyle. But I think it’s missing the geographic closeness to what people want, even if they don’t really use it that much.

  35. LE

    Come on down–I’ll give you a tour.So it’s a marketing and PR failure then. (That’s so Pennsylvania Philly has dealt with that for years. So fucking humble..)How come I lived in Philly metro practically my whole life and don’t know what you are saying?I know about what is going on in Brooklyn. I know about Austin Tx. I know about Silicon Valley. I read all sorts of stuff, right? But yet I have the wrong idea (according to you) about Lancaster.The 7 million tourists per year totally blows me away. Why isn’t that front and center? I didn’t know that.As far as “an hour away” that’s only one factor (but for sure is important). The other factor is “it is on the way to something”. Lancaster isn’t “on the way”. It’s an end point. Things that are “on the way” will do much better. For example better to be Newark Delaware than Dover Delaware. Better to be off the NJ Tpke than off of Rte 78 near Allentown. (Hard to put in words what I am thinking for some reason).

  36. awaldstein

    7 million?I applaud you for marketing to a market that not only wants to hear but acts and visits.The fact that the population at large doesn’t know your city is not as important as a large population who care and do know.That’s what you build on to the extent you want to.They are fortunate to have you Charlie.

  37. LE

    And what would that be? Tell me more.

  38. Salt Shaker

    Why so critical about LE’s comments? He raises some valid points. You’re obviously proud of and appreciative of your environs, but frankly what the area offers may be a bit more of a secret than you realize. For example, my perception of Lancaster (perhaps naively) is limited to Armstrong Flooring. Presume the city has an active Tourist Bureau and also an arm that promotes economic growth? Maybe living in NYC is a tad out of their sweet spot, vs. a Phil or Balt., Or maybe an under the radar strat is desired for managed growth? Feel free to enlighten, Mr. Mayor.

  39. JLM

    .Nothing to do with your discussion but we are a funny species. We will go thousands of miles to find something that is less than 50 miles from home sometimes.If only we would be thoughtful and attentive.Fredericksburg, Texas and Hunt, Texas are a short drive from this computer and I fail to think about them. I go to Colorado, Florida Keys, NYC, Wrightsville Beach, Destin when there are some beautiful little wood log and stone cabins alongside the bubbling river with hot tubs and relaxation beyond compare.It is a little German town — I think they still have a German newspaper — in the Hill Country.I fail to think about it constantly. Too close?JLM.

  40. LE

    Why so critical about LE’s comments?Yeah for sure I am not a fan of the ambiguous short comment. One that you can’t triangulate from what else is said. When using a longer form of writing you can tell what the writer is trying to say. Looking at the comment one way it seems to be a put down of a sort. Looking at it another way it doesn’t. That’s the ambiguity.Had Charlie said “the music scene is really good in Lancaster” that would be one thing. Because I’m not into the music scene anywhere. But I have a perception of Lancaster and I’ve been in this area a long time. It’s no boating accident. (Jaws..)There seems to be a ton of farm land surrounding Lancaster city. [1] So to me that is “the country”. Just looked up the official definition and it seems close enough. Maybe there is also a ton of farm land in the Hamptons. But nobody thinks of it the same way they think of Lancaster that has heard of both places and is somewhat familiar.[1] Google maps satellite view.

  41. LE

    You see the same dynamic with kids when they pick colleges. They don’t want to be in their own state.What is the saying? Familiarity breeds contempt? Familiarity breeds boredom. [1]I automatically think of any small shitty town in NY State as being better somehow than the same small shitty town in my own state.I know nothing about Fredricksburg TX at all. But it automatically ranks as more interesting to me than any town in my state. [2]Why? Because there is something exotic about something that you don’t know about.[1] That is one big big advantage Manhattan has over Philly. Philly has all sorts of restaurants and cool neighborhoods. But Manhattan goes on forever. There are so many places that you can never get bored with the city. In Philly you have Rittenhouse square. Really nice. But it’s pretty small. And in NYC there are all sorts of places and nooks and crannies. Philly has Fairmont park which is huge. But central park is better located and has much more activity.[2] Other than places in my own state that for some reason I know of positively. For example Princeton is a damn nice place.