In the Great Cities vs Suburbs Battle, Companies and Workers Are Voting With Their Feet and Moving Downtown

Promo image. In Toronto they are piling the new on top of the old/ Allied Properties

In Toronto they are piling the new on top of the old/ Allied Properties/Promo image

There was a major bunfight in The Daily Beast last month; Joel Kotkin, the apologist for sprawl and the suburban way of life, wrote Richard Florida Concedes the Limits of the Creative Class, with the dek: "The so-called creative class of intellects and artists was supposed to remake America’s cities and revive urban wastelands. Now the evidence is in—and the experiment appears to have failed."

Richard Florida responded with Did I Abandon My Creative Class Theory? Not So Fast, Joel Kotkin and more appropriately in terms most would agree with when it comes to talking Kotkin, Bollocks.

It was quite the exchange, and even got parodies on April Fools Day on Planetizen here and here

However when I look at the statistics where I live, in Toronto, it's clear that Richard Florida is right. While there are some differences between Canadian and American cities, the fact is, people are moving back to the city and putting down roots all over North America . Furthermore, companies that had fled the city are returning. In Toronto, big companies like Coca Cola and Telus (a major wireless company) are moving into new buildings; start-ups are moving into older ones. According to the Toronto Star:

Companies migrating from the suburbs to be close to young workers living in downtown condos that have sprouted up in the last decade are now fuelling heightened demand for office space in or close to the core.
“We cannot provide space fast enough to keep up with the demand,” says Hugh Clark, director of development for Allied [Properties, a big developer] which owns almost 3 million square feet of office space in Toronto, most of it A space just east and west of the AAA financial district.
“This brick-and-beam (space) on the periphery of the core is very sought after because of this urban migration,” says Clark.

A realtor explains:

As residential developments continue to rise and companies such as Google, Coca-Cola and Telus look to attract a younger generation of talent, there is an expectation that many companies will want to be located in the core,” notes Colliers.

They are not coming downtown because we have particularly good governance or great transit or cheap housing; Toronto has none of these. They are coming because that is where the workers are. Workers who are also raising families in apartments because the commute from the suburbs to downtown is almost impossible now and is only going to get worse.

There are a lot of people who have problems with Richard Florida and his Creative Class. But you can't get around the fact that the movement is back to denser, walkable cities and that the great suburban experiment is in trouble.