Cities that Thrive

Constraints that Lead to Creative Growth.

It’s been researched and documented that cities are hotbeds for innovation, with the Santa Fe Institute coining the term “urban metabolism,” based on the fact that cities exhibit faster metabolism as they become more populated, generating more innovations and wealth creation. Yet, these innovation breeding grounds can become too hot; what once was “the place to be” can become untenable for innovators given the price tag to play in these locales. Success leads to soaring costs, which squeezes out those who did the innovating. Hitting it big, the very thing one seeks, can be the detriment to creativity. You see it with movies (big movie studios needing to chase the sequel to feed growth goals). You see it with restaurants (restaurant menus that serve the usual to bring in the dollars that pay the rent). You see it in cities (rents escalate, mass merchants move in to pay the big dollars, and the cool shops that made the place vibrant to begin with get driven out). But creatives find their way and keep creating, often landing in more affordable environs that again become the new breeding ground for what’s hot.

  • As a case in point on the ups and downs of thriving cities, the Union Square Café in New York City reported last month that it would be closing its doors after almost 30 years, because the owner can no longer afford the lease. Instead, Danny Meyer plans to move the restaurant to a new, unidentified location. An innovator being pushed out only to find the next location that might be rejuvenated by his restaurant’s move and presence.
  • In contrast, the Lower East Side of Manhattan, not far from where the Union Square Café has been located, is undergoing a renewal. Interestingly, Brooklyn used to be the place to move for affordable accommodations, which has led to a transformation of that part of New York City, but now creative types are being priced out of that borough. Creatives and innovators are finding their way to the Lower East Side and bringing with them new stores, restaurants, and entertainment.
  • Thriving communities and ones that take risks tend to be those operating with constrained resources. Similar to the Lower East Side in New York City, Oakland, California is continuing its revival, as the creative class finds itself pushed out of San Francisco proper and relocates across the bay. From art to food to entertainment, one can find new ventures and communities helping each other thrive.

Consumer Forecast: Help fuel the new, supporting creativity and ingenuity.



Chozick, Amy. “My Lower East Side,” The New York Times, June 20, 2014.

Moskin, Julia. “Union Square Cafe Joins Other Victims of New York City’s Rising Rents,” The New York Times, June 23, 2014.

“The Oakland Edition,” San Francisco Magazine, June 2014.

Categories: Economy

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