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Richard Florida Responds: Leaving D.C. Was Once-In-Lifetime Chance

Last week, I wrote about Richard Florida's new book, "Who's Your City?" and the decision by the guru of creative urban living to pack his bags and leave Washington for a sweet new gig in Toronto.

If Florida truly does admire the District as a place to live and work, why did he leave? And doesn't leaving for a better job somehow cast a shadow on his exhortations to his readers to focus on going where other creative people are when you're picking a place to live?

Now, Florida has responded on his own blog, and he says I'm right--sort of. "Yes, I moved for career," he writes.

I've said on many occasions our decision to leave Washington DC was bittersweet. We loved our house, our neighborhood, our friends and the community. On many levels DC was [a] great "fit" for us. The main reason I moved to Toronto, as I've said many times, is a once in a lifetime opportunity to build a major think tank around place, creativity and prosperity issues.

...we have nothing but fond memories of DC and I find it one of the greatest places in the world. I am constantly recommending it to our family and friends as a great place for them to live.

In fact, when I decided to move from Pittsburgh several years ago I made a rudimentary spreadsheet (sort of an early template for some of the ideas in Who's Your City?) and guess which two cities came out on top - DC and Toronto, virtually tied.

Florida says there's no mystery to his decision to live not in the red-hot creative center of the city, but in a leafy, pleasant, quiet neighborhood in upper Northwest. After all, he says, "a person's choice of neighborhood is critical and ... well ... very personal. It has to fit your life-stage, life-style, family and personality. It's not a one-size-fits-all thing.... We wanted to live in a house in a community that's not too congested but near urban amenities, that is near parks and open space where our (future) kids and (current and future) nieces and nephews can play, and where we can walk and cycle."

That's all quite reasonable, but it doesn't entirely respond to my point about Florida's ranking of the District as a relatively lousy place for families with children, or his comments about how Washington flunks his "Trick or Treater Index," a shorthand measure of a city's suitability for families with kids based on how many or few kids come around on Halloween.

He and I certainly agree that each family has to make its own choices based on its own values and ideals--and what it can realistically manage. But I don't think Florida has really answered the point about what he found lacking in the District. Rather, he simply states how much he loves the District, which I know is true, but which doesn't seem to cover all of his feelings and thoughts about the city.

Anyway, have a look at Florida's response and the comments his readers have made. I'm still a big fan of his thinking about cities and how people decide where to live--his writing was important background for a piece I have coming up in the Washington Post Magazine later this month on Washington's future. And I hope he will one day deliver a more detailed analysis of the relative merits of his last couple of hometowns.

Coming up at noon today on Raw Fisher Radio: National Harbor, the massive retail/hotel/office complex on the Potomac River in Prince George's County, is finally about to open. What do its former opponents think now? Will it succeed? What impact will it have on both sides of the river? Tune in at noon at to hear all about it.

And coming up this afternoon here on the blog: How did Nationals Park and the D.C. transportation system fare in last night's first-ever weeknight game at the height of rush hour?

By Marc Fisher |  April 8, 2008; 7:38 AM ET
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If you like Florida's ideas about creative class and cities that foster it, take a look at the original hypothesis on urban amenities by one of Florida's former colleagues, Lowell Taylor (still at Heinz School, Carnegie Mellon). You might discover a new dimension, one that Florida covers up.

Posted by: areader | April 8, 2008 9:05 AM

Who gives a rat's a** what this guy thinks about this or any other town? There are plenty of great places to live. He sounds like a pretentious jerk, way too wrapped up in his supposedly exquisite judgement. Why do you waste so much blog space talking about him?

Posted by: Claudius | April 8, 2008 9:09 AM

Hey Florida, don't let the door hit you on the way out.

Posted by: AMF | April 8, 2008 10:48 AM

Ooooohhh, snap!

I declare a blog war.

The joys of "journalism" in the 21st century.

Posted by: M Street | April 8, 2008 10:55 AM

I wonder how Florida feels about illegal ALIENS. Oh, wait. They aren't hurting anybody, they are just trying to make a living, right. Read on and tell it to the little old lady:

HIT-AND-RUN CRASH: On April 6 at 11:11 a.m., Charles County Sheriff's Officer S. Bryant responded to the 6200 block of Crain Highway in Waldorf for the report of a hit-and-run crash. Investigation revealed the victim, a 77-year-old Oxon Hill woman, and the suspect were driving north on Crain Highway when the suspect attempted to change lanes. The suspect's vehicle struck the side of the victim's vehicle and the suspect failed to stop. The victim followed the suspect to a parking lot, where the suspect left his vehicle and fled on foot. His vehicle rolled into a tree. The suspect is described as an Hispanic male in his late 20s. He is between 5 feet 6 inches and 5 feet 8 inches tall and has a thin build and brown hair. He was wearing a long-sleeve blue shirt and was last seen fleeing south on Crain Highway. The victim sustained minor injuries and did not require medical treatment. Anyone with information about this incident is asked to contact the Sheriff's Office at 301-932-7777 or Charles County Crime Solvers at 1-866-411-TIPS

Posted by: DC Voter | April 8, 2008 11:36 AM

Hmmm...DC Voter would be a great poster child for those who oppose the knee-jerk anti-immigrant policies that result in harassment and loss of liberties for us all--what in the news clip he posted indicated that the hit and run driver was an illegal alien? No wonder people of Hispanic heritage are being harassed, ethnicity is not an exact marker for illegality. BTW, does he assume that everytime someone with an Irish name in Boston is accused of a crime it's another proof of the dangers of illegal immigration? There are large numbers of people from Ireland without papers living there.

Posted by: Farragut Square | April 8, 2008 3:26 PM

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