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The Playground City

Working paper #554
Joel Kotkin

The author argues that having lost the economic and demographic initiative to the hinterlands, cities have two alternatives. They can work to become more competitive in terms of jobs by attracting skilled workers and middle-class families, or they can become playgrounds for the idle—and not so idle—rich, the restless young, and tourists. Many cities seem to be adopting the latter strategy, regarding tourism, culture, and entertainment as “core” assets, just as Venice and Florence did years ago, and Las Vegas and Orlando do today. However, in a global economy, only certain cities can be successful playground cities. Given their reservoirs of entertainment venues, cultural institutions, and “hip” districts, they may be able to attract a sufficiently large customer base of tourists, young professionals, and older affluent residents and visitors hoping to experience a more diverse way of life. It is not clear that older, industrial cities that lack these attributes can successfully convert themselves into playground cities.

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