Thursday, October 19, 2006

Creative Class

Speaking of creative class, I am sure that everyone has heard something about Richard Florida's ranking Albuquerque as the 8th most "creative city" in this fair country? That's a stat that is hard to find in the news. National news prefers to publish the rankings for cities greater than 1 million people. ABQ fell into the second tier cities with a #1 ranking. But when push came to shove, statistically, our ABQ was #8, overall. Only the San Francisco, Austin, Seattle and the rest of the usual suspects came in above us.

Again, what do those cities have that we don't you ask? A highly regarded university that is an institution their very own in-state students aspire to be accepted for admission to along with students from across the country. But I digress. What I'm getting at here is an article published in the Journal a few weeks ago, written by Autumn Grey, discussing the latest trend in design firms setting up shop in our slowly resurrecting downtown. The article highlights two companies, one that has expanded from Austin, and other that has expanded out of New York City.

Searching through news articles, I also stumbled upon a few that have hail an education center of higher learning that the city needs to recognize as they are putting out award winning work with the likes of our countries elite universities. Yet, this news goes by unrecognized, opting instead for shock and horror stories. The Art Center Design College is annually winning awards for it's cutting edge marketing. According to the colleges website, there are nearly 300 students enrolled in their Albuquerque campus, the main campus being in Tucson. Now here's a crazy idea, what if the powers that be in our downtown work to attract this little gem of an institution to our little design-center-in-the-making: DOWNTOWN. We would have several, excellent design companies and an institution pumping out high quality workers for these companies all together in an area where ideas could flow freely like only a critical mass can achieve. Is that not the goal of our economic development organizations? Plus, it would be nice to add another 300 young creative minds to the daily bustle in and around downtown.

Going with the theme of downtown jobs, a Commuter Rail Status Report was published a couple months ago analyzing the affects the train may incur on our job centers throughout the region. I found a few interesting numbers in that report that actually disappointed me. There are, unofficially, 18,900 workers in our Central Business Distict on a given workday. Taking into account the outlying areas that are easily accessible from Alvarado Transportation Center such as UNM, TVI and the hospitals, the number quickly doubles. Still not an impressive number for a metro area zeroing in on a million residents shortly. What is our goal? What do we want to look like? I see efforts to attract jobs, jobs, and more jobs of all types to the area. I've seen us implement commuter rail, and now we're planning for a streetcar. But what's the connection? Where are we going? It all seems so haphazard. Wake up Albuquerque! We need a unified goal. 30,000 jobs in the CBD by 2010? That's a start. 100 more miles of bike lanes? Yes. We need goals and we need leaders to set us in a direction we can all work toward.

And speaking of bike lanes, Dwell Magazine has a nice article highlighting our popular biking scene. I highly recommend everyone to take a look. Our city has a cool, edgy look when photographed.


Michelle Meaders said...

Too bad our mayor and Chamber of Commerce don't appreciate this. They just push for more sprawl on the West side, and are against the arts tax because the city doesn't have enough say in it.

John said...

Great post, Tim. I agree with you 100% that we need to get some more jobs in downtown. The streetcar might fuel development(or redevelopment), but it's hard to tell what that development will be. Lofts? Cafes? Housing is fine and all, but without work few will want to really live here.

I actually wasn't aware of this design college until you mentioned it. I agree, get it downtown. Albuquerque is getting a great reputation for good design work with guys like Vaughn Wedeen Creative doing the Rail Runner, Isotopes, and all the Flying Stars and Satellites.

Those downtown job numbers are a little disapointing. In that same report there was a diagram showing 13,000 people commuting from Valencia County to work in Bernalillo County, and 20,000 from Sandoval County. These are the major markets for our commuter train, but a lot of these people are probably commuting to places the train can't reach, like the air force base. Our train is serving a very small slice of the pie right now.

Mr. Viddy said...

Crazy. I love being in the Duke City but somehow I do not see much along the lines of a creative class. But if someone is ranking us in the top ten then perhaps there is hope.

casden said...

I've been living in Chicago for about three years, lived 4 years in San Francisco before living here. I grew up and lived in ABQ before moving to San Francisco for work. It always peaks my interest to see stories in national mags about ABQ. I really do miss it.

It seems that lately ABQ has been getting alot of good publicity. I still consider myself an ABQ'en and will probably move back within the next five years, or when ABQ reaches the 1 million pop. mark (whichever comes first).

Anyway - my question is in which issue of Dwell was the article you refer to?

I have to tell you that your blog and all the blogs on Duke City Fix are really a great resource for getting insight in what's happening in that beautiful city - THANKS.

I read up on ABQ happenings because when people find out where I'm from they either tell me they,ve been there and they really liked it alot, or they've never been there and they ask me about the city. I've actually taken friends from both San Francisco and Chicago to ABQ. Some want to return and spend more time and some have even become interested in buying a place to live in the area.

Tim said...

Viddy; "The Rise of the Creative Class", I believe, took into account four major components of a city - technology, arts, gays and something else - and ranked them each accordingly and then as a whole. In the last decade, ABQ has been ranked in the top ten for high tech concentration, top ten in percentage of gay couples, and it's fairy well known that our arts scene is pretty vibrant. It's hard to live in this town without knowing someone who makes art or plays in a band, etc. on the side of their dayjob.

Casden; The issue I'm referring to is the November 2006 issue. I believe the headline is Pre-Fab.

That is great, you chose two of my favorite big cities in which to live. I have been tossing a coin to decide which I'd prefer to live, even if for just a couple years. I've actually decided I may be relocating to Chicago for the spring to begin working towards a masters at UIC. I'm just worried about relocating in the dead of winter :|

casden said...

Thanks for the info - I'm going to make a trip to one of bookstores (for a copy of Dwell)near work on my lunch hour (I work in the Loop - downtown Chicago - across from Millennium Park).

Both cities have been amazing to me. The people have been great - I easily met friends who showed me around in both cities. Obviously, the weather's better in San Francisco, but I can't say at this point that I prefer one over the other - they both have so much to offer. But I still miss the warmth, the mountains, the green chile, and the lower cost of housing in ABQ.

One thing though - I would really opt not to move to Chicago in the winter. They are long and cold here, and even if you can manage to move all your furniture into what might be a third floor flat (with no elevator) in the snow - you probably won't really get to enjoy the city because it could be 15 degrees Fahr. outside (with a wind shield of 10 below). But it's an amazing city anyway.

Hopefully one day soon ABQ will be as vibrant as San Francisco and Chicago. It already has some interesting, open minded and extremely creative people - so in my opinion it's on it's way.