Still, even if it's just morbid curiosity, these lists are fun to sift through. More often than not they foster a contrarian rant proclaiming why your city deserved a better position. So here's my rant.
This time Forbes ranked the twenty U.S. metropolitan areas with the most new construction. Right off the bat, the article delves into the oil industry's impact on Texas. That's valid. But the survey based is rank order on a city's percentage of spending compared to previous years. That is riddled with confounding variables. Namely, increased spending doesn't equal more development. Cities with a high cost of living have to spend more money on construction. Cities with powerful unions spend exponentially more on development than more development friendly cities. And, in the case of Philadelphia, relaxed union rules have made development potentially more affordable.
But, as so many of these ridiculous lists do, this survey seems to be more about image than quantifiable substance. So naturally, Philadelphia didn't do so well.
That might not be a bad thing.
|We don't need Forbes to tell us we rock.|
Do other cities have a better image? Yes. Thanks to Matt Damon and Ben Affleck setting every one of their ******* movies in Boston, our chief historical rival has a better national image than a city with three times the population and much better architecture. Yes, I'm being entirely opinionated about that because I can.
San Francisco, which surprisingly landed just ahead of Philadelphia, definitely earned its image. It's a beautiful city that managed to attract some of the most wildly innovative business markets. But it also has a notoriously narcissistic reputation few cities can rival. San Francisco is great because the Chronicle says so.
It's unfortunate, but San Francisco suffers from a similar reputable woe as Philadelphia. Their smug idealism is our throwing snowballs at Santa: a stereotype that exists in a fairy tale based on a select few, but far from wholly true.
But that's what all major cities deal with and why these lists are complete and utter bull****. Unless you're talking about Farmville, VA, you can't even try to pigeon hole any city as successful, fit, sick, or young. There are simply too many people.
However there are some things that empirically set Philadelphia apart from our more "successful" counterparts, if Forbes is to be believed. Our undoing is our saving grace. You have to ignore what you think of a city, what's being built, and how affluent its residents are. You have to solely think of a city's potential. And that's one area in which Philadelphia not only thrives, it's an area we are seriously tapping into.
High priced cities like San Francisco have nowhere to grow but vertically. Cities like D.C. have nowhere to grow but out. The populations of Forbes' "better" cities are growing, and in turn, so is the cost of living.
But Philadelphia is an anomaly. As opposed to cities like Detroit or St. Louis, we have a relatively stable business market. But we also share a built environment the size of Baltimore waiting to be redeveloped. We have land, abandoned apartment buildings, and shelled row house waiting to be revitalized and redeveloped for at least another fifty years. That will help us attract refugees out priced from New York, D.C., and other pricy cities as new development improves our image, both of which can attract new business.
When you consider that, a city's image isn't relevant to anyone who's looking at a city's potential. In fact, a "good" image like San Francisco or New York might even signal that a city's being maxed out. When the nearest affordable apartment is in Queens, that's a very long train ride to ponder the better quality of life you could have in Philadelphia. There will come a time when retail employees, waiters, and artists can no longer afford cities known for shopping, restaurants, and art. Then what? When that day comes, Philadelphia is already the next best thing. It might even be the better thing.