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 washingtonpost.com/rawfisherradio 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?
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