The key factor that draws people to a certain place is the place itself. Quality of Place, in comparison to Quality of Life, refers to a unique set of characteristics that define a place and make it attractive. This factor is so important, that Florida has identified Quality of Place as “Territorial Assets”; the fourth T of economic development after Technology, Talent, and Tolerance (the 3Ts of Economic Growth).
There are three key dimensions to Quality of Place (Florida, “What Draws Creative People?”):
What’s there: the combination of the built environment and the natural environment; a stimulating, appealing setting for the pursuit of creative lives.
Who’s there: diverse people of all ethnicities, nationalities, religions, and sexual orientations, interacting and providing clear cues that this is a community where anyone can fit in and make a life.
What’s going on: the vibrancy of the street life, café culture, arts, and music; the visible presence of people engaging in outdoor activities—altogether a lot of active, exciting, creative goings-ons.
In summary, Quality of Place is about an interrelated set of experiences. Many of these experiences occur at the street level and are dynamic and participatory. Everyone is a part of the picture of the place; whether it’s being a part of the street-buzz or retreating to your home or the park.
Quality of Place does not occur automatically. It is an ongoing, dynamic process that involves the engagement of a number of disparate aspects of a community. However, the process is not always a good thing; what appears to be neighborhood revitalization from one perspective is gentrification from another. (Florida, “What Draws Creative People?)
Another element of Quality of Place is thick labor markets. Creative people are attracted to places that offer several jobs in their field rather than just one. They want confidence in knowing that there are several opportunities for them and they don’t have to feel trapped working the same job for the rest of their life. To be attractive, a place needs to offer a job market that is conducive to a horizontal career path (Florida, Revisited 287).
Thick labor markets allow for place to solve a basic puzzle of our economic order: it facilitates the matching of creative people to economic opportunities, providing a labor pool for companies that need people and a thick labor market for people who need jobs. In this way, place replaces the large corporation. It becomes the central organizing unit of our economy and society. “The gathering of people, companies, and resources into particular places with particular specialties and capabilities generates both the efficiencies and the innovations that power economic growth” (Florida, Revisited 288).
Lifestyle, along with employment, is essential to Quality of Place. Creative people will often choose a place based on its lifestyle, and then look for a job. A study by Joe Cortright and Carol Coletta called “The Young and the Restless” found that though jobs and economic growth are important, highly educated young singles place a “higher priority on quality of life factors.” Furthermore, it concludes that 60 percent of the time, well-educated young people are “more likely to move to a place with slower job growth than the place they left” (Coletta).
People expect more from the places they live than they used to. It was more common for people to leave their hometown to go on a weekend vacation to experience a new or different culture or scene. The sociologists Richard Lloyd and Terry Nichols Clark of the University of Chicago state that “workers in the elite sectors of the postindustrial city make ‘quality of life’ demands, and increasingly act like tourists in their own city” (Clark).
One reason that creative people make these demands is because of the nature of their work. People still go away at times, of course, but because of their flexible and unpredictable work schedules, they seek recreational activities at spontaneous times. That means having amenities and nightlife that are open beyond the usual daytime hours to cater towards people who work long hours and are up late at night. (Florida, Revisited 290) “Instead of traveling elsewhere for entertainment and culture, or going to a big-box retailer or shopping mall, residents [of creative communities] are patrons of local talent and venues, earnings that re-circulate at a higher rate in the local economy” (Markusen).
Human beings crave social interaction, but as the political scientist Robert Putnam reminds us, modern society isolates us; satisfying interactions and social support are harder to find than they once were. People are spending more time “interacting with more computers in the home, instead of with each other.” (McPherson) One reason our cities and communities are becoming more interactive is to fill that void with the large percentage of people who are isolated from society. Journalist Ethan Watters has suggested that what he calls “urban tribes,” or a close-knit group of friends, are assuming the roles that families once did. Watter argues that the urban tribe meets members’ needs for self-expression and self-actualization in ways that actual parents and siblings sometimes suppress. (Watters)
Florida notes that there are not just people we can turn to but places where we can go to relieve our sense of isolation. The sociologist Ray Oldenburg identified the role played by “third places.” Neither of the first two places, home and work, satisfy our sense of isolation. It is the “third places” like coffee shops, bookstores, and cafes that make up “the heart of the community’s social vitality.” Places like these are where people “hang out simply for the pleasures of good company and lively conversation.” Barbershops, beauty parlors, and nail salons fill this role in many urban communities. (Oldenburg) These third places play a critical role in making a place look attractive. Life at home is a lot less stable than it once was--many couples now both have demanding jobs and many more people are single than ever before. Not only life at home but work life is changing as well. More people are working at home and spending their time in front of a computer. Human contact is harder to come by. (Florida, revisited 291)
However, Florida has recognized a new kind of place, a fourth place--a venue that integrates both work and community. Florida defines it as a place where workers can go not just to escape from work but to check email, post a tweet or grab an impromptu meeting. Traditional office environments are not catering towards the freelancer and traveler because they are not flexible enough. Real estate developers are beginning to notice this change and are responding to freelancers’ and travelers’ needs for temporary offices and meeting facilities, making cubicles, offices, and conference rooms available for rent on an as-needed basis (Florida, revisited 292).
One of the most important factors that people look for when choosing a place to live is diversity. People aren’t only looking for diversity of people, but diversity of thought and open-mindedness as well. A mix of ages, ethnicities and races, sexual orientations and alternative appearances are all factors of diversity. A good example of a diverse region is Washington D.C. It hosts a variety of ethnic communities and scenes. “Like the diverse workplace, a diverse community is a sign of a place that is open to outsiders” (Florida, Revisited 293).
Diversity encourages excitement and energy. Creative-minded people enjoy a mix of influences. They want to try different kinds of food and hear different kinds of music. They want to meet new and different types of people and socialize with them, trade views and spar over issues. “A person’s circle of closest friends might not resemble the Rainbow Coalition--in fact, it usually doesn’t--but creatives want the rainbow to be made available.”
Another important aspect of Quality of Place is Authenticity. Chain-stores and corporate restaurants, nightclubs and bars are viewed as inauthentic by the creative class and are usually avoided for this reason. Authenticity is an important aspect of Rustbelt and post-industrial-cities, which will be discussed later.
Brandon E. Young