Richard Florida, the college professor whose bestseller on what he dubbed the creative class helped make Americas cities hot again and turned him into an intellectual rock star, doesnt idly pick a place to meet for a conversation.
So on a warm Miami afternoon, Florida (that is his real name) occupies a sidewalk table in Wynwood, the once-desolate warehouse zone whose emergence as an arts district has been defined by an explosive propagation of graffiti murals. The table belongs to Panther Coffee, which is run by young and hip or does that go without saying? entrepreneurs who roast, grind and blend their own beans.
A decade ago, in the landmark The Rise of the Creative Class, Florida was among the first to frame and popularize the notion of a back-to-the-city movement led by artists, gays and other bohemians, not as a niche phenomenon but as the leading edge of a vast shift that has made urban centers and the creative people they attract not just hipsters but science, tech and design types, media workers, entrepreneurs and, yes, owner-baristas the engine of U.S. innovation and economic growth.
Floridas presence here just as the extensively revised, 10th-anniversary edition of Rise is published would seem to confer a blessing on the endeavors of Panther Coffee, Wynwood and the sprawling, still-unformed city that contains them.
Hes not just visiting. The avatar of the Creative City, whose main job is running an institute for the study of economic prosperity at the University of Toronto, is settling into a bayfront South Beach condo where he and his wife and business partner, Rana, will live and work winters.
If the Floridas come to Miami, does that mean Miami is ready to take its place in the creative economy alongside San Francisco, Boston, Seattle and Washington, D.C.?
Oh, were way past the tipping point, he says, already speaking proprietarily of his part-time hometown as he cites the citys food trucks, South Beach, Art Basel and the resurgence of downtown Miami, the Design District and Wynwood. Weve become this singular kind of destination. The investments this community made in the arts really paid off.
Miamis newfound cultural allure, and its design-focused urban revival, he says, have made it a location of choice for people who, like the Floridas, could live anywhere. That includes CEOs with Beach pied-a-terres, DJs, star chefs and Latin American tech entrepreneurs. (The sunshine helps, he admits.)
Whats happening in Miami illustrates a key corollary of the creative-class theory, Florida says: The creatives who drive todays economy now about a third of the U.S. workforce seek out cool places. That means walkable neighborhoods with distinctive architecture, a diverse population, a vibrant street and cultural life and amenities like cafes, bars, parks and bike lanes. As the creatives rub shoulders, they generate new ideas and enterprises that propel economic growth and attract even more talented, creative people. Florida, a hyper-productive writer, prolific public speaker and senior editor at The Atlantic magazine (whose fast-growing Atlantic Cities website he helped launch), drives home one central point: Manufacturing and the working class have been supplanted as the nations principal source of prosperity by the creative class and the knowledge-based economy, and cities with the right environment enjoy a huge competitive edge.