Most Kansas Citians won’t recognize the name, but we owe much of the inspiration for our downtown development scheme to urbanist Richard Florida. According to The Houston Chronicle, through his book, “The Rise of the Creative Class,” Florida
popularized the early-aughts idea that faded cities could revitalize themselves by attracting the talented, intellectual types who made up what he called the "creative class." Lure some hip coffeeshops, create an "arts district," play up your gay friendliness, and watch the laptopping masses pour in.
Unfortunately for Kansas City, our leaders bit hard on the bait and haven’t yet let go. Witness the millions of dollars poured into failed downtown economic development schemes such as the Power & Light District and the H&R Block building. Note the rhetoric around the streetcar or the Smart Cities proposals. Note the Mayor’s focus on Kansas City’s startup mirage. We’re chasing a creative class dream spun by Florida. Show-Me Institute writers pointed out flaws in his ideas for years, and now, at last, Florida himself admits he was wrong:
I got wrong that the creative class could magically restore our cities, become a new middle class like my father's, and we were going to live happily forever after," he said. "I could not have anticipated among all this urban growth and revival that there was a dark side to the urban creative revolution, a very deep dark side.
For Kansas Citians, the dark side we are being saddled with now is an ever-more hollowed out tax base, a city that struggles to deliver basic services, and an east side made even more unattractive to developers due to the flow of subsidies to other neighborhoods that were already economically sound. Regular readers of this blog know we’ve argued against Florida for years.
Florida has admitted his error. Will those in Kansas City who followed his advice do the same?