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American Century types like to complain that this country doesn’t make anything anymore or if we do it’s artisanal cheese and not steel. But as this article points out, that cheese or other basement production is often where the big stuff starts. How can we forget Apple’s garage beginnings.

So if economies are shifting, at least in some small way, to local production and services, are our communities able to accomodate new jobs?

According to Mike Pyatok, interviewed in Better Cities and Towns, “Most planning regulations are based on the Euclidean model that separates cities into zones accommodating a single use, which true live-work is decidedly not.”

While Pyatok is pointing out that the rules of subsidized housing preclude small scale economic ventures, the article’s author, Thomas Dolan, describes a white collar version of live-work. Rather than colonizing a Starbucks, office freelancers could work in the ground floor of a live-work building where they can share services and ideas.

With economies shifting, our notion of what a good commuity is may shift as well. Will it continue to be the suburban ideal of green separation or will connections be more important?

One Response to “Urban Economics and Where We Live”

  1. gk

    As I sip my Manhattan and ponder the future of Sterling Cooper, I am intrigued by this post. I, more than most, look wistfully when we did indeed make something. The artisanal movement, though is troublesome as a solution. Yes, most things start small Ford, Jobs, and Wozniak all began in garages, but they quickly became big. At this point Apple is close to the most valuable corporation on earth.

    The artisan movement, while interested in craft and a thorough understanding of one’s knitting, is interested in staying smallish. Anti-industrailization is part of the ethos.

    This is not the same as, say, a German microphone manufacturer pursuing technical and manufacturing excellence.

    The other half of your post poses another issue by answering the first. Since we can all applaud the arrival of the new artisanal local economy we can finally justify the fine-grained urbanism long sought by fine-grained urbanists.

    But does life become smaller and duller? Is Dolan romanticizing a bit too much here. Is it really preferable to sip coffee in the same live work space rather than a midtown Starbucks?