“As soon as anyone on Earth could see and talk to anyone else by pressing a button, most of the need for cities vanished.” – Arthur C. Clarke
Are cities dead and we continue to maintain them with life support? Think about what technology allows us to do from anyplace we choose to be. We have the ability to work and conduct business, carry out personal relationships, be entertained – anywhere, anytime frequently without leaving our homes. Even the oldest, most basic tools of technology, the telephone and white/yellow pages, can bring the world to our front door.
There is a debate occurring locally involving the owner of the Charlotte Bobcats NBA team and the community about how well the team is supported by fans and local businesses. In my opinion, the team needs the support a lot more the city of Charlotte and its inhabitants needs the team. But what is happening here is bigger and arguable more important than, for instance, “sports”. It points to the need for a lot of business or entertainment providers to rethink their business strategies when it comes to aligning themselves to any “city center”. Sure, I see a lot of development in Charlotte where areas that were slums at best are now pricey hi-rise condos. The people who live there are young, aggressive, childless professionals who tend to have plenty of disposable income. But, most people, including true families, live in the suburbs and beyond. As the cities become denser with this more affluent class and the businesses that cater to their needs, why would there rest of us care to set foot there if we don’t have to or more to the point if it doesn’t have what we need? (since I began commuting to the very heart of Charlotte 16 months ago from a neighboring county the one thing I noticed missing from downtown are businesses that meet any of my day-to-day needs – I still have to go to the mall or the newer style “shopping villages”)
We’re probably just feeling the pain associated with rampant, unrestrained growth felt by every other large city.