I’m going to confess something super geeky. You’ll either get it, or you won’t. But for a small subset, it’ll resonate.

It started with the Defy Square. A friend had one, and the Cobra buckles of course caught my eye. He told me about Defy, a local Chicago company.I was intrigued. Down a rabbit hole I went.

The bag that started it all, but I wasn’t cool enough to own myself.

Wait, no. That’s not right. It started, as it does for many, with my dad. Every day he went to this mythical, mystical place called, “work.” Work had various code names that changed every couple of years. Sometimes it was the name an…

May 28, 2013 at 7:05 am CDT

Despite the hipster surroundings in which I work, I’m not a huge fan of irony. The first enclosed shopping mall was Southdale Center in Edina, Minn. It was developed in 1956 by Victor Gruen. A fantastic new PBS show called 10 Buildings That Changed America profiles it as number six on the list. That seems reasonable. …

May 6, 2013 at 9:53 am CDT

People in their 20s are behaving very differently than previous generations. They’re getting married later, having kids later and buying homes later. In many cases, they’re making it all the way through their 20s having done none of those things. Many wonder if they’ll ever take those steps. If and when they do, today’s 20-somethings who collectively make up the bulk of the largest generation in U.S. history — the Millennials — have the opportunity to reshape the city/suburban landscape.

Much is made of stats about Millennials (the current 20-something generation) as renters…

Should Cities Invest in Biking? Why Small Growth Matters.

March 11, 2013 at 9:50 am CDT

Numbers are funny things. Much of the conversation in the livability space and in discussions of revitalizing downtowns comes down to transportation in the end. Cars are inefficient because they often transport only one person, they need parking spaces on both ends of their destination and they sit idle the majority of the time. Never mind the rising cost of fuel, the environmental aspects of fossil fuels, etc.

Walking and biking, on the other hand, are more sustainable forms of transportation. Therefore, much current…

Pro Sports Teams Boost Community Spirit, Not Economies

October 31, 2013 at 4:00 am CDT

Walk around any professional sports venue on game day and you’ll observe what sure looks like an economic boost. Fans fill local restaurants and bars. Stores sell hats, shirts, baby shoes and just about anything with the home team’s logo on it. Otherwise empty lots suddenly cost $15, $25 or even $40 to park in.

The $1.1 billion stadium for the Dallas Cowboys is one of the biggest expenses in pro sports.

But most economists who’ve studied the economic impact of pro sports teams say…

Richard Florida: The Livability.com Interview (Part I)

October 18, 2013 at 7:49 am CDT

What makes a city a great place to live? We sat down with Richard Florida, the best-selling author of Rise of the Creative Class , senior editor of The Atlantic and director of the Martin Prosperity Institute, which helped us create our new Livability Index . He took the time to chat after his keynote address at the Nashville Chamber of Commerce annual meeting.

Here’s Part II


The History of Livability: What’s Changed?

October 16, 2013 at 9:09 am CDT

“Just what such words as ‘progress’ and ‘civilization’ mean is often disputed, but no one doubts that they exist,” H.L. Mencken, then editor of the American Mercury magazine, wrote in 1931. “It is when concrete criteria are set up that the dispute begins.”

And with that, he began a sprawling search for “The Worst State” that totaled nearly 50 pages in three monthly installments.

Over the years, there have been no shortage of Best Places to Live lists. The American Mercury ‘s measurement of states, under a…

What a Swamp Rabbit Knows About Main Street Revitalization

October 8, 2013 at 6:59 am CDT

How do you amp up your main street revitalization projects? Many ideas are pitched as quick fixes: If you just do this , it will reverse decades of demographic and consumer shifts. Overnight! The truth is, it has rarely worked that way.

Greenville, S.C., (one our top affordable vacation cities) is a good example. The town of 60,000 realized early on that Main Street was an important commercial area. Like many main streets, it suffered in the 60s — feeling the impacts of sprawl…

Kids in Poverty: A Problem for All Cities on the First Day of School

August 26, 2013 at 10:31 am CDT

Today in my city 400,000 students will take part in the first-day-of-school ritual. It’s not a happy day for everyone. It’s not a hopeful day for everyone. Forty-seven fewer elementary schools will welcome the children of Chicago today. Those schools saw their final last day of school in June. They were shut down, ostensibly as a cost-cutting measure.

Chicago public schools are not in the greatest shape. They’re cutting arts, languages, recess and gym. They’re closing schools. They’re laying…

Lou Reed was a great urban rock-n-roller. Was he also a near victim of the American Dream?

Lou Reed: photo matt carmichael/rocknroll.net

In urbanism, as in rock-n-roll, Lou Reed was ahead of his time.

Lou Reed was a quintessential New Yorker and one of its finest storytellers. For his album, New York, it becomes a character itself as part of a dark, gritty, hopeful, aural love letter. As he gets his overdue induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, many are pausing to reflect on his life and career as one of the great rock-n-rollers of all time.

Perhaps the most thoughtful and…

matt carmichael

Editor, What the Future; Editorial Strategy @ipsosUS, speaker, author @Buyographics. Past: @livability @adage @crainschicago.

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