The changing shape of modern cities

By Jon Beale

Los Angeles skyline at night

The geography of cities is changing. In today’s modern city centres human talent has replaced industrial capital. Urban centres have undergone a large de-industrialization over the past half century to become hubs of innovation, networking, and ideas that attract a young, talented “creative class“. The Martin Prosperity Institute recently explored this changing urban landscape in the study The Divided City and the Shape of the New Metropolis.

The study looked at how the creative, service, and working classes are geographically divided throughout 12 major American cities (including New York, Miami, Dallas, Detroit, and Los Angeles) and how this division is creating a new type of metropolis. The results of the study indicate a clear pattern of class division across each of the 12 metropolitan areas, with the affluent creative class occupying the most economically functional and desirable locations in the core of the city. As the ranks of knowledge workers grow in these urban centres, new cultural amenities such as restaurants, music venues, and galleries continue to replace former industrial strongholds, complementing otherkey location factors that appeal to the creative class like proximity to transit, clustering around knowledge institutions (i.e. universities and research facilities), and natural amenities.

The locations of the service and working classes in the modern city were also tracked in the study and were found to have shifted away from the core of cities. Now the service class either surrounds the creative class, concentrating in areas of urban disadvantage, or has moved to the suburbs.

While this report focuses on general trends in 12 sample American cities (an MPI Insight on some Canadian cities is available), and there are still large creative class clusters and complexes in the suburbs and concentrations of poverty in many city centres, it does offer some insights into how demographic trendsurbanization and economic shifts are reshaping cities.

This post originally appeared in TINAN 60Subscribe to TINAN for monthly emails on economic, workforce and cultural development news and resources or view the TINAN archive for more information.