Wednesday, September 5, 2012 at 9:48 a.m.
The Sun-Sentinel has a piece today about how local business leaders and yuppies are aspiring to make Broward a high-tech destination to lure young people and their families from across the nation. It quotes a few successful professionals who found nice office space, to support the thesis that "Broward aims to be seen more like Austin, Texas or Portland, Ore.: places with outstanding schools, excellent public transportation, vibrant cultural activities and a healthy lifestyle."
Hey, Broward. Buddy. If you want to be seen as having those things, you should actually have those things.
But there are some other reasons that establishing Broward as a hip-lifestyle destination is nothing more than the PR campaign of the moment.
1. Broward is not a place.
All those bespectacled programmers you're dreaming of having drink coffee in your nonexistent coffee shops? They've never heard of Broward. Really, take a poll. They've heard of Fort Lauderdale and Century Village. The countywide denomination is something that evolved when this was a huge, empty tract of frontier swamp, and it was cemented by sprawling midcentury suburban development. If you want to be a destination, you're going to have to shake it. Single out a few places to attract people and forget the rest. People who move to Portland don't give a shit about Multnomah County, and people move to Austin, not Travis County. The Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau already realizes this.
2. Broward is built for an outdated lifestyle.
Young people want to move to cities where they can live at the center of an urban hub and take buses or trains to points of interest. They don't want to sit in an air-conditioned car at a six-lane traffic light, cursing at the old lady in front of them. This isn't just a matter of plunking down a streetcar in Fort Lauderdale. The place has to grow around transit, sensible commutes, and a repudiation of the commuter lifestyle that made our parents into grumpy automatons. Broward as it stands is a collection of bedroom communities. Again, pick a town and rebuild it.
3. Beware of private developers offering a cure-all.
piece mentions that some people want to bring in a private developer to revamp Fort Lauderdale's Riverwalk, like Dacra's work in Miami's Design District. One could also point to San Antonio's riverwalk as a successful model of this forced commercial destination model. But there are so many ways this can go wrong. Do you really want to pin your civic success on a greedy South Florida developer? And look what happened with the Riverfront
4. Hipsters don't give a shit about the beach.
Now, don't be confused: South Florida has bred a special type of hipster, one that is very well-tattooed and well-tanned and often wears multicolored striped tank tops with tiny little shorts. But hipsters, yuppies, and whoever else you're trying to attract to come work here are looking at a number of cities with the aforementioned cultural activities, transportation, etc. They're not going to trade all that for the opportunity to bake on the beach with some SPF 45.
5. There's still a chance we could be proven wrong.
A couple of decades ago, none of the crusty burnouts and trailer trash in Portland, Oregon, dreamed that their home would be a destination for yuppies and artisan pear-jam dealers and artists and cyclists. The place was a backwater, and that's just the way they liked it. The same could happen here -- not countywide, ever, but in a city or two, or along a corridor, or at the beach. Who knows? First step is getting all the corrupt assholes out of government and getting the people who already live here to give a shit about the place. Educate people to see through all the shiny marketing material about "urban destinations" and "revitalization" and decide on a few priorities for quality of life. And build the goddamned trains. Hey, if Shoeless Joe could show up in a cornfield in Iowa, maybe some of the creative class can stumble into our sunny slice of paradise.