I feel so lucky to live in New York City.
Not only is it a dynamic and energetic place, but it also serves as a wonderful testing ground for new disruptive technologies.
In the last few years, we’ve seen OpenTable make reservations easier, Seamless make ordering lunch easier, Uber disrupt ordered car service, AirBnB create new (and potentially illegal) options for tourists, Via make life easier for work commuters (or running kids around town more cheaply than in
taxis), Task Rabbit aid in running errands, among many others.
You’ve noticed that I left the dating scene out of this, as it’s entirely out of my experience, but I hear that apps make this quite easy too, depending on how loosely you define dating.
As I’ve heard many times: in New York, the easy stuff is hard, and the hard stuff is easy.
Whatever technology can do to help make the easy stuff easy again – we’re all for it.
And these ideas often do make living in the city easier, but they don’t necessarily solve for the other pull especially present in New York City – which is a return to local vendors, a draw to somehow recreate the Town Square, either virtually or physically.
While we see this “Local” theme in restaurants and new food purveyors – whether presenting locally grown food in the context of meals, or specialty items – honey, cheese, produce, etc. – not only are city dwellers looking for things sourced locally, but are looking for human community, a physical manifestation of the Town Square.
People want to live where they work.
People want to shorten their commutes.
People want to walk, to bike, to shop small and close to home.
These are not new ideas, but they do run counter to the last 5-6 decades of city development.
Yet we see this gravitational pull of the city in major metropolises across the country.
Downtowns are redeveloping, taking advantage of whatever local and interesting geography is available.
The phenomenon is not at all specific to Manhattan, Brooklyn, or New York City in general.
And yes, these desires also run alongside the fun of shopping at Costco and
Walmart, allowing a worldwide supply chain to
save them money when they shop in bulk.
Certainly, suburban conveniences without the downsides play into the realities (Google Express) and fantasies (e.g. more affordable housing prices) of city life in NYC.
The explosion of co-located work spaces, such as WeWork, Regus, or up and coming upscale versions like Blender, all point to a desire to create community and allow wonderful serendipitous synergies to take place.
These bring the cost-effectiveness of the Silicon Valley garage and the community of the small village together.
This idea of the return of the Town Square was brought home again last week, listening to developer Young Woo describe his Pier 57 project.
He is imagining this retail development as a new version of the Town Square – an incubator for new retail business built from shipping containers, an area with performance/event spaces, traditional office space, along with a variety of notions that attempt to bridge the “work/life balance” that appears to be top priority for millenials.
If someone cynical would argue that work/life balance doesn’t exist, then they could point to creations such as Pier57, or co-located work spaces, all allowing people to work harder and make recreation time easier than ever.
In Manhattan, the further development along the Hudson for cycling, running, walking, and playing knits these neighborhoods together.
I am fascinated by these emerging expressions of these ideas, and how they guide residential and commercial development across the US.
– just massive amounts of square footage under development, creating many, many new communities – these are social experiments, civic planning challenges, incredible opportunities to see if the Town Square is as Young Woo sees it: the lifeblood of a city.
He said, “If a city’s downtown dies, local culture dies.”
I cannot be the only person who sees cities and towns across the country losing their unique qualities.
As much as development can foster a city’s uniqueness, I could not be more supportive of those efforts!