Friday, January 16, 2009

The Best Cities - Smart People And Lots Of Fun Things To Do

Update 1/16/2009
And let's not forget great places to live need great places to relax. How the city hurts your brain ...And what you can do about it

Traverse City has a good start in being a great small town. But it is not all the way there yet. Living here "feels" as though we're on the verge of either becoming a great place to live and an economic engine or a touristy follower-town.

What makes a place a nice place to visit usually makes it a nice place to live.

There have been some recent articles regarding what makes some cities always attractive and what a place needs to do to be more than a nice place to visit. What is comes down to is put together a lot of smart people and give them fun things to do.

Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia released a research paper titled City Beautiful (PDF).
...past studies have provided only indirect evidence of the importance of leisure amenities for urban development. In this paper we propose and validate the number of leisure trips to metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) as a measure of consumers' revealed preferences for local leisure-oriented amenities. Population and employment growth in the 1990s was about 2 percent higher in an MSA with twice as many leisure visits: the third most important predictor of recent population growth in standardized terms. Moreover, this variable does a good job of forecasting out-of-sample growth for the period 2000-2006. “Beautiful cities” disproportionally attracted highly educated individuals and experienced faster housing price appreciation, especially in supply-inelastic markets. Investment by local government in new public recreational areas within an MSA was positively associated with higher subsequent city attractiveness. In contrast to the generally declining trends in the American central city, neighborhoods that were close to “central recreational districts” have experienced economic growth, albeit at the cost of minority displacement.

The researchers studied 15 variables to come to their conclusions:
  • Log Total
  • Employment in Tourism-Related Activities(1990)
  • Log Population
  • Log Number of Colleges
  • Poverty Rate
  • Log January Average Temperature (Average 1941-1970)
  • Log Average Annual Precipitation (1961-1990)
  • Share with Bachelors Degree
  • Share Workers in Manufacturing
  • Share Workers in Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate
  • Average Block-Group Distance to Park
  • Average Block-Group Distance to Recreation Sites
  • Log Historic Places per Capita
  • Coastal Share within a 10 km Radius
  • Mountain Land Share within a 10 km Radius

  • has more on this research: Urban playground: As politicians weigh economic stimulus for cities, research suggests a surprising way to succeed: make it fun
    In their paper, Carlino and Saiz found a statistical correlation between the number of leisure visits to a metropolitan area and the growth of factors like population and housing values. They controlled to determine that the tourism itself wasn't causing the growth, and argue in their paper that people move to the cities for the same reason they visit as tourists. They also demonstrate that investment by local governments in such "recreational capital" - spending on parks, cultural institutions, sports facilities, and other public-private spaces - has succeeded in making cities like Charlotte and San Antonio more attractive to tourists. They compute that a 10 percent boost in such spending yields a 2.3 percent increase in leisure visits, and, if the correlation holds, will also increase growth.
    "If you have things that attract high-skilled, high-income individuals, they are more productive," said Carlino, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. "They are the ones who are likely to start up new companies."

    And in the NYT Exonmix blog an entry on why NYC continues to thrive: New York, New York: America’s Resilient City
    Homo sapiens are a social species; almost all of what we know we learn from each other. Dense cities, like New York, succeed when they take advantage of this fundamental aspect of our humanity. They thrive by enabling us to connect with each other, which then promotes learning and innovation. The current downturn will only increase the returns to being smart, and you get smart by hanging around smart people.

    The formula for a great city seems clear: create a city with a temperate climate near a coastline and with museums, colleges, parks, and downtown magnets -> create dense housing in an urban core -> smart people will come to the city -> human capital will make the city great.