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Cities and the legacy of COVID-19 - Richard Florida

Richard Florida is a professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management and School of Cities. His books include The Rise of the Creative Class and The New Urban Crisis. In this episode, he discusses the impact of COVID-19 on city culture and the future for large social gatherings, and offers advice for city planners and leaders as they look to the future and the pandemic’s inevitable legacy of challenges.

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One of the ways urbanists and urban economists like to distinguish what’s important about cities is to characterize two kinds of functions. On the one hand, there is a productivity value of cities. I think in that respect, their ability to generate these clusters of productive industries and finance, high technology, entertainment media, I think that’s going to grow. So I think that cities are going to increase their hold on core industries, big cities like Toronto, like New York, like London, like San Francisco. In fact, the geographic inequality, the divide between big successful places and smaller, less successful places, that’s going to grow.

On the other hand, we’d like to talk about the amenity value of cities, how much cities are valued for the arts, the culture, the shared things, the theaters, the arenas, the sporting events, the great restaurants, the excitement they provide, and I think that value is going to decline dramatically in the short run. Not in the long run, in the short run. So in that respect, I think people are going to say they would … When we say a place to live, work and play, cities are going to be in the short run a place that you work and you’re going to live and play at home.

Even in China, the reports you hear is people go to work and go home. So, I think that living and playing is going to be done at home, in the backyard, maybe with trusted family and friends in small groups socially distanced, maybe on a small block party. But you’re not going to have large gatherings. There’s not going to be a big sporting event. There’s not going to be a caravan, a festival, or Coachella. There’s not going to be going to a big Taylor Swift concert.

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