Flickr photo by millicent_bystander
(…) A recent report from CEOs for Cities, a group of U.S. business leaders, mayors and university presidents, declares: “Now that the era of cheap gas is over, demand for development on the fringe is down, and consumer interest and market potential lie in developing and redeveloping neighbourhoods closer to the urban core.” (…)
But what’s happening here goes a lot deeper than the end of cheap oil. We are now passing through the early development of a wholly new geographic order – what geographers call “the spatial fix” – of which the move back toward the city is just one part. (…)
Rising fuel costs are one thing, but in today’s idea-driven economy, it’s time costs that really matter. With the constant pressure to be more efficient and to innovate, it makes little sense to waste countless collective hours commuting. So the most efficient and productive regions are the ones in which people are thinking and working – not sitting in traffic. (…)
Zach Neal, a sociologist at the University of Illinois, Chicago, writes that the city-regions of the past were essentially self-contained markets that operated as “functional hierarchies” – i.e., they produced just about all they needed themselves and supported everything from agriculture and factory complexes to downtown office centres and residential suburbs. But Neal says the new global system of cities is built on “relational hierarchy” – it’s the relationships between key cities and regions globally that matter. A Brookings Institution report finds that global cities such as New York, London, Tokyo and Shanghai are strongly connected to one another, much more so than, say, New York and Louisville or Toronto and Edmonton.(…)
While we are in the early development of this new economic geography, one trend is clear: The history of economic development and of capitalism revolves around the more intensive use of urban space. The coming decades will thus probably see greater concentrations of people, increasing densities, and further clustering of industry, work and innovation in a smaller number of humongous cities and mega-regions globally. Alongside that will come ever more concentrated economic opportunity and deepening social and economic divides between people and places. (…)
What it means: if you’re working in local search, it’s always important to keep abreast of these economic mega-trends. Modifications in commute routes and massive new neighborhood developments can create or destroy local search/hyperlocal opportunities. I’m also very much intrigued by the concept of relationships between key cities/regions. I wonder if there’s not a mega-directory opportunity there. It certainly requires some new thoughts on geographical scoping.