Monday, March 2, 2009

A Floridian slip!

The Globe & Mail reported in February 2009 that Prof. Richard Florida, who the Canadian media have dubbed as the Urban Guru, lives on a secluded lot on a cul-de-sac. In his own words: "I have to say it being on a cul-de-sac overlooking a ravine was very attractive to me." He adds: "I thought how safe, how quiet, how perfect."

I am utterly confused. Richard Florida claims to be Jane Jacobs's disciple on all things urban. He invokes her memory in the op-ed pieces in Canadian newspapers as he sings the virtues of diversity, density and the hustle and bustle of urban squares. How does living on a secluded lot on a cul-de-sac reconcile with what he preaches?

Here are some details. The darling of urban planners lives in a 5000 square feet house on a secluded lot and considers cul-de-sacs perfect. And in case you missed reading Florida's $2.2 million report (a bargain at $150 per word) in which he asks for more creativity in Ontario. Here are some quotes for your reading pleasure:

"It is important to recognize that the history of economic development is a history of more intensive use of space. That may sound somewhat strange to those who think of suburbanization as sprawl."

"In this sense, suburbanization was a movement further along in the more intensive use of urban space."

"Today, the shift from suburbs and metropolitan areas to mega-regions composed of multiple cities and suburbs is the next step in the more intensive use of urban space beyond the previous period of metropolitanization and suburbanization."

"Just as suburbanization expanded the boundaries of where we live and work while increasing and intensifying the use of space, mega-regions take this one step further. The coming decades will thus likely see increasing densities and further clustering of industries, jobs, and innovations in a smaller number of mega-regions." Pp. 28

Given that Florida holds a PhD in urban planning from Columbia University, he must know that densities have been falling in North American cities. He must be comparing suburbs with rural areas to reach the above-mentioned conclusions. But compared to rural areas, any city would be dense by default! Or am I missing something?

Also, see Andrew Potters' assessment of the report in McLeans.


The complete text of Florida's views on what he chose for an abode are available at the Globe and Mail's website: An urbanist's retreat

Globe-trotting city theorist Richard Florida and wife Rana find a home to love perched on a Rosedale ravine byDEIRDRE KELLY, February 20, 2009.

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