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What is CityLab?

CityLab is dedicated to the people who are creating the cities of the future—and those who want to live there. Through sharp analysis, original reporting, and visual storytelling, our coverage focuses on the biggest ideas and most pressing issues facing the world’s metro areas and neighborhoods.


Is CityLab the same thing as The Atlantic Cities?

Yes. Previously known as The Atlantic Cities, CityLab re-launched in May 2014 with an expanded editorial mission as well as a new name, URL, and mobile-first responsive design.


Can I still read stories that appeared on The Atlantic Cities here?

Yes. All of the content that was on theatlanticcities.com is now on citylab.com. Atlantic Cities urls will redirect to the new site.


What is Navigator?

Navigator is “the modern urbanist’s guide to life,” a section of the site that launched in 2014 offering tips and strategies for city lifestyles. Check it out here.


What is CityFixer?

CityFixer is our tool that offers “solutions for an urbanizing world.” It collects the best ideas and stories for a dozen of the leading drivers of modern cities — including schools, civic life, policing, and energy use. A click on “Aging,” for example, will surface all past CityLab coverage on the topic. Check it out here.

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Restaurants Really Can Determine the Fate of Cities and Neighborhoods


A new survey shows how much food influences the vibrance of urban centers.



  • 9:12 AM ET



Jacques PALUT/shutterstock.com


The way to an urbanite’s heart is through his stomach, apparently.


A new study released today by planning and design firm Sasaki Associatesfound that food is a major driver of the American urban experience: Eighty-two percent of urbanites appreciate their city’s culinary offerings, and a new restaurant is the top reason nearly half of those surveyed would venture out to explore different parts of their city. The majority of city residents also consider food and restaurants to be the most outstanding aspect of cities they love to visit.


Sasaki commissioned independent research firm Equation Research to survey 1,000 people living in six cities: Austin, Boston, Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. The study, analyzed in the report “The State of the City Experience,” was conducted in May of this year.


Going out to eat has been a huge driver of America’s urban renaissance, judging by the poll results. Like any café owner in Paris, today’s U.S. restaurateurs know full well the vaunted place of food in the spectrum of city life. The line-out-the-door bistro is the meeting place, the water cooler, the modern-day bazaar—maybe even the new congregational convening. Have you been to (fill in the blank)? It’s central to the urban conversation.


Restaurants are the leading force behind reclaimed waterfronts and regenerating neighborhoods, and are a key component of mixed-use development and urban retail. When a part of the city puts itself on the map, it’s often because of a wave of trendy eateries have opened there. I've almost completed the circuit of new restaurants that have sprouted in Washington Square in Brookline, the Boston area’s hottest foodie hub. My latest destination was Fairsted Kitchen, which, appealing to my inner urban-planner nerd, draws its theme from Frederick Law Olmsted and his presence in the area. (The name refers to Olmsted’s offices, which are on a nearby National Park Service site.)


Have you been to (fill in the blank)? It’s central to the urban conversation.There are, of course, a few prerequisites if one is going to hire a sitter and try to schedule life around trying out a new spot: The urban bounty must be locally owned—if by a pair of previously aimless skateboarding buddies, so much the better. No chains. The preferred menu is organic and locally sourced. It’s amazing how farm-to-table has gone from novelty to a given in such short order.


The Sasaki survey results reflect a similar appreciation of the local, in ingredients and entrepreneurship. Forty-six percent of those surveyed said they want their cities to invest in more community-focused events and attractions such as farmer’s markets, swap meets, and food trucks.


Admittedly, there’s something a bit cloying and entitled about talking about this at all as the world falls apart all around us, and those living in slums worldwide scrape by. But it does make sense. We’ve all got to eat, many of us are trying to eat healthier, and the contemporary professional is pressed for time. The clear advantage of living in the city is to have staggering variety right outside the doorstep. The local bistro is where we unwind, or do business, or discover a new way of life, like going vegan.


What are the other essential ingredients of urban love? Study respondents seem to favor traditional architecture, with more than half saying they would like to see their city renovate historical buildings, compared with 22 percent who would like more unusual architecture. Nearly half ranked their city’s waterfronts as their favorite open space. They want less traffic congestion, better management of parking spaces, and better public transportation.


Sasaki principal Victor Vizgaitis detects a penchant of what designers call programming, which happens as a matter of community and civic life. While those surveyed were unimpressed with modern architecture, for example, “we believe it is because today’s contemporary buildings tend to prioritize quantity and speed over quality and mission," he says. "As planners and designers, our job is to understand what people want and balance these desires with the big picture—economic realities, cultural needs, environmental concerns, and design opportunities—ultimately helping to shape a more satisfying and sustainable urban experience.”


I welcome the focus-group feedback as part of the ongoing project of understanding what it means to live in the 21st-century American city, and look forward to more polls that tells us even more. But right now, the kale salad atTory Row in Harvard Square is calling to me. The place is right in Harvard Square and they serve it outside with a handcrafted IPA. Everybody's talking about it.

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Solutions for an Urbanizing World




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How Vancouver Became One of North America's Most Family-Friendly Cities


It took very concerted policy efforts going back to the early 1990s.





The family-friendly False Creek area of Vancouver. (Daniel Lobo/Flickr)


If you're a city resident of a certain age—basically, that part of the generational Venn diagram where X and Y overlap—you probably know someone who recently left to start a family. The reasons vary, but in predictable fashion. Not enough room in the apartment. Not enough park space nearby. No dependable public school and no affordable private one. No way to navigate a stroller on the subway that doesn't result in occasional tears of rage.

But are cities fundamentally unsuited to family life, or have they been in such a rush to feed the needs of young singles that they've unwittingly overlooked the procreating part of the population? The Sightline Institute's blog has beenrunning a fantastic series, written by Jennifer Langston, tackling these very questions. All the posts are worth a read, but what caught my eye was one on a North American city that seems to be doing an especially great job luring families: Vancouver.


Downtown Vancouver, in particular, has made a concerted effort to improve living conditions for families, starting back in the early 1990s. Evidently, the policies have paid off. In 2011, downtown Vancouver was home to 5,100 kids under 15—five times more than downtown Seattle, which itself is doing better in this regard than most American cities. This part of Vancouver is also outpacing the city at large, as well as outlying parts of the metro area.

7eea5f6e9.jpg(Sightline Institute)Let's take a closer look at the policies responsible for this change (most of them described in a set of guidelines for "high-density housing for families with children" adopted by the city in 1992).

Units: For starters, Vancouver required developers to set aside of share of high-density housing units for families—typically 25 percent, according to Langston. That means at least two bedrooms, one of which should have play space for toddlers designed into it. (Oh, and thick, thick walls.) Since families might not want to live on the 16th floor, the city suggested grouping family units closer to street level, often in multilevel townhouse-type structures that form the base of more traditional residential towers. This ground-level clustering makes coming and going easier and gives children peers in neighboring units.






Solutions for an Urbanizing World



Buildings: Family-friendly buildings need a few architectural quirks that towers for singles might not: bulk storage space for things like strollers or toys, better nighttime lighting in common areas, corridors that can fit a tricycle. They also need secure, safe play spaces—ideally ones that can be seen from inside the units or from a designated supervision area. The spaces should maximize sunlight and be made to withstand "the rough and tumble of children's play," according to Vancouver's guidelines. You have to love a government document with lines like this: "Opportunities for water and sand play are especially important."


Surrounding areas: Vancouver also realized that not all parts of the city were as family-friendly as others. It instructed developers to choose sites within half a mile of elementary schools, daycare centers, and grocery stores, and within a quarter mile of transit stops. Safe walking routes—ideally separated from high-traffic arterials—were also important. Langston writes that the city went a step further and actually required some developers to build or fund community facilities (such as daycare centers or parks) if none already existed, and even to designate sites for schools.

One former Vancouver planner told Langston that developers might initially balk at such requirements, but that they'd eventually recognize the potential to reach a new market. Indeed, a follow-up study on housing satisfaction among families in the city's False Creek North area found that 96 percent would recommend living there. The conditions aren't family-perfect—the city still has a shortage of schools, space for teenagers has been tougher to create, and questions of affordability linger—but they're definitely family-friendly.


American cities, meanwhile, have some catching up to do. Many have outdated parking, zoning, or land-use policies—as A-P Hurd pointed out here yesterday—that discourage the sort of development found in Vancouver. Writing at his Urbanophile blog earlier this year, Aaron Renn pointed out that the 10 U.S. cities with the lowest share of children under 18 is also a who's who of places otherwise fulfilling progressive urban development programs: San Francisco, D.C., Portland, and Boston, among them.


Using Census data, we reexamined this list by change in population of kids under 15 (not 18) between 2000 and 2012:

92da834c2.jpg(CityLab)What does this show us? First and foremost, that many major U.S. cities have their work cut out for them if they want to be home to more families. Those that do can't start implementing such policies soon enough. But it's interesting to note that the two cities on this list actually growing their youth population, Seattle and Portland, are also the ones closest to Vancouver. Coincidence? Perhaps. A good place to set the family-friendly compass? Sure seems like it.

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Une excellente source d'inspiration pour certains quartiers montréalais dont Griffintown. Ici je pense à la proximité du canal et son immense parc linéaire, et aussi à la grande quantité de terrains à construire. Ne manque en fait qu'une bonne politique urbaine qui inclurait les familles dans la planification du secteur. On pourrait conséquemment faire de cet arrondissement en pleine mutation, l'endroit parfait pour rivaliser sérieusement avec le 450.


Il faut viser toutes les clientèles si on veut faire échec à l'étalement urbain. Ainsi si Vancouver peut le faire avec des prix immobiliers nettement supérieurs à Montréal, je ne vois pas pourquoi alors on n'y arriverait pas nous-mêmes. Tout est vraiment une question de volonté et d'actions bien ciblées. Il y a d'ailleurs beaucoup de petites familles où les deux parents sont des professionnels, qui achètent une McMansion en banlieue parce que la ville ne leur offre pas suffisamment de logements adaptés à leurs besoins spécifiques.


La ville nécessite pourtant tous les types de ménages pour former une population équilibrée. Elle devrait en conséquence être idéalement un milieu de vie qui convient à la majorité, et cela du berceau au tombeau. Ne suffit en fait que d'être un peu imaginatif, tout en s'inspirant des modèles architecturaux qui ont eu du succès ailleurs. Ensuite faire la promotion, autant auprès des promoteurs que des clientèles visées. Aussi bien sûr, il faut un plan d'urbanisme en amont qui encouragerait l'établissement de services dont auront besoin les familles. Il serait ensuite beaucoup plus facile de démontrer les nombreux avantages, pour les jeunes ménages, d'une vie urbaine bien organisée.


Il n'est pas trop tard pour intervenir et toutes les formules (logements locatifs, condos, coopératives, maisons de villes à haute densité), peuvent être des réponses en fonction des attentes de chacun. Finalement avoir le courage d'imposer un pourcentage de résidences avec 2 ou 3 chambres qui s'adressent directement aux familles de la classe moyenne. Si on fait déjà des pressions pour des logements sociaux pour les familles à revenu modeste dans les quartiers en développement, je ne vois pas pourquoi alors on ne le ferait pas pour les autres types de familles? Montréal y gagnerait certainement au change. On comprendrait au passage, que la ville peut offrir une qualité de vie égale ou supérieure au mythe de la banlieue et c'est l'agglomération en général qui en profiterait.

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Montreal's Newest Concrete-Slab Building Is Brightened With Film Stills by Thomas Edison


Architects used images filmed by the inventor in 1901 to bring life to an apartment building's flat facade.






KANVA/Marc Cramer


On a cold day in March of 1901, Thomas Edison filmed Montreal's fire department rolling down a snow-covered street. It wasn't a particularly captivating film, just a continuous shot of horse-drawn carriages with members of the city's fire-fighting crew in tow. But over a century later, the film has found new life as the face of Montreal's newest student apartment building.


The Edison Residence, designed by local architecture firm KANVA, is an infill project just completed near McGill University. Built on what had been a vacant parcel since the house that once stood there burned down in the early 20th century, the architects used Edison's film as a way of referencing the site's own history while cleverly playing with notoriously unplayful concrete.


Photoengraving stills from Montreal Fire Department on Runners (1901)onto the building's concrete panels brings an unexpected jolt of life to a material few would chose over the bricks and stones that define many of the Edison Building's neighbors. It makes the structure inescapably engaging.


88bb03383.jpgThe Edison Building (left) replaces a vacant lot (right). (Mark Cramer, Google Street View)


According to the architects, the film stills move in and out of focus as people walk by (they refer to it as "animated architecture"). When viewed up close, the facade asks you to contemplate the city's history captured in the film. From a distance, the images become more abstract, lending an almost weathered look to the building. To complement the design, windows along the front of the building are screen-printed with stills from the film.


Older concrete buildings face an uncertain future; repairs to them are costly, and the public has limited admiration for their design. The material itself, however, isn't going away anytime soon. In fact, a process like photoengraving may be just the trick to give the harsh material a new mass appeal in this century.

fad4ccfcb.jpgBreaking down the graphic treatment of the Edison Building. (KANVA)Most examples of photoengraved concrete are limited to a single wall of a public space (like Quebec City's Promenade Samuel-De Champlain) or a section of a facade (like Gutenberg-Höfe in Heidelberg, Germany). With the Edison Building, the three-story residential structure's entire face gets the treatment. The use of historic, local imagery has a truly disarming effect.

Just as impressively, KANVA has managed to introduce a new generation of Montrealers to long-forgotten images of their city—courtesy of one of the most important innovators of his time.







Edited by IluvMTL
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The New Global Centers for Talent


London, New York, and Paris top the list of the world’s leading talent hubs—but not for the reasons you might think.




London, the world's most popular work destination, according to a new survey. (Reuters/Paul Hackett)Over the past couple of decades, talent has supplanted endowments of natural resources and the technological and industrial prowess of large corporations as the source of economic advantage for nations and cities. Jane Jacobs initially identified the economic power of talent clustering in cities, and a raft of economic studies has since confirmed that concentrations of human capital drive national and regional economic growth and development. But most studies have only identified and examined the role of talent clusters within nation states.

A new study released last week by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and the recruiting firm The Network identifies the leading cities for global talent around the world. The study is based on survey responses from more than 203,000 people across 189 countries based on online and email queries. Specifically, the study asked respondents to indicate up to five cities in which they would “consider living abroad.”

The graphic below, from the study, lists the top 30 talent hubs around the world based on these survey responses.




London ranked first, with 16.0 percent of respondents listing it as a top destination. New York was second with 12.2 percent. These two cites typically top lists of the world’s most economically powerful global cities, with Paris in third place (8.9 percent). The next several cities are more surprising. Sydney, which typically ranks among the world’s most livable cities, takes fourth, followed by Madrid, Berlin, and Barcelona in Europe, with Toronto, Singapore, and Rome rounding out the top 10. Of these, only Singapore routinely ranks among the globe’s most powerful economic and financial centers. The rest, including Sydney, are more renown for their high qualities of life. Among U.S. cities, Los Angeles, Miami, and San Francisco rank 12th, 15th, and 18th, respectively. This ranking may seem somewhat surprising: Miami is known more as a center for sun and fun and as a Latin American financial and business center, but its economy does not compare in size, breadth, or scale to either L.A., the nation’s second largest metro, or San Francisco, the high-tech capital of the world. Montreal is 21st and Vancouver 23rd, giving North America seven of the world’s top 30 talent hubs. That is second to Europe, with 17. Asia has just two, and Latin America and the Middle East only one each.

That said, when it comes to nations, 42 percent of respondents ranked the U.S. as the No. 1 potential work destination, followed closely behind by the United Kingdom (37 percent) and Canada (35 percent). It’s notable that all three of these countries are English-speaking nations with relatively high percentages of foreign-born residents and comparatively open immigration policies.

The study found two-thirds of survey respondents to be willing to move abroad for work.These results should, however, be taken in the context of the global distribution of survey respondents. Roughly half of respondents are currently located in Europe, which may help explain the relatively high share of those selecting European cities for an international move. This compares to the just 10 percent of respondents from Asia. But an even smaller share —about nine percent—are currently located in the U.S., and just under two percent are from Canada. Those low percentages indicate that the countries’ popularity as work destinations is less skewed by relative locals willing to hop over borders, and more by their global attractiveness to international talent.

It’s also worth pointing out that the survey is skewed towards top talent and does not reflect the preferred destinations of the world’s populations broadly. Nearly one in four (23 percent) of respondents had master’s degree or postgraduate qualifications; 36 percent had bachelor’s degrees; and just 10 percent of respondents replied “none” or “other” when queried about their educational attainment.


Overall, the study found a huge percentage of survey respondents—64 percent, nearly two-thirds—to be willing to move abroad for work. But it found considerable variation in how willing talented workers are to move based on the country they currently live and work in, as the chart below (also from the study) shows.




Workers from the U.S., U.K., Denmark, Germany, and Ireland, as well as Latvia and Russia, were among the least likely to move. But workers from the United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Jamaica, and surprisingly the advanced nations of France and the Netherlands were among the nations with the highest share of residents ready to move. The survey results don’t indicate why the latter two countries had such high percentages of pro-moving respondents, but it may be because highly-educated French and Dutch residents are likely to be attracted to global powerhouses like London and New York, which provide more opportunities for top talent.

Willingness to move abroad for work, however, is not always a good sign. In countries like Pakistan, the report found that 97 percent of residents said they would be willing to go abroad for work—in this case, an indication of just how many people are interested in escaping that nation’s troubled economy and political instability.

The report also identifies the kinds of workers who are most and least likely to want to move. The most likely are engineering and technical workers in fields like IT and telecommunications, 70 percent of whom said they would consider moving abroad. As the report notes:

The world is hungry for what these workers have to offer, and engineers may in turn sense that they have a chance to significantly increase their earnings by going to places where there is a high demand for what they do, such as Silicon Valley in the U.S. and Silicon Roundabout in the U.K.

On the flip side, only about half of the respondents in the medical and social work fields said they would be willing to move, which likely reflects national regulatory requirements for these kinds of jobs. This may be cause for concern in some countries, especially those facing shortages of medical and health-care workers

The study also identified the percentages of younger workers, 21 to 30 years of age, who would consider moving abroad for work. Now the pattern changes, as the chart below shows. In particular, younger Americans are much more willing to go abroad than their older countrymen.




More than half of American job seekers ages 21 to 30 say they are willing to move abroad. That represents the largest gap between the locational preferences of a nation's young people versus the workforce in general. Young Brits, Canadians, and Swedes were also more willing to move than their older counterparts. Meanwhile, less than 50 percent of young Russians said they would be willing to move, about on par with the general population. Once again, Jamaican and French young people topped the list, with more than 90 percent saying they were willing to move, similar to the overall population of workers from those countries.




Most people think money is the key reason people look for work in cities outside their home countries. But that is not what the study found. In fact, as the chart at left shows, when respondents were asked to rank factors that affected their happiness on the job, compensation-related characteristics ranked low. The highest-ranked money factor was “attractive fixed salary," and it came in eighth overall.

The most highly ranked factors had much more to do with challenging jobs and engaging work environments. The top four factors were: appreciation for your work, good relationships with colleagues, good work-life balance, and good relationships with superiors. Conversely, two of the four least important factors in job happiness had to do with compensation

Clearly, the talented and creative workers of today are different from the old industrial workers of the past. They want to work on great projects, be challenged on the job, and desire a stimulating work environment. They also want to work in open-minded, diverse cities with lots of other creative and talented people and varied career opportunities, which provide the abundant excitement on which creatives thrive.

It’s an important lesson for cities, and one that I've written about extensively: When it comes to attracting talent, money and job security are necessary but insufficient conditions. Truly global and national powerhouses offer great work, great colleagues, great projects, and great cities.

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Is Your Neighborhood Changing? It Might Be Youthification, Not Gentrification


One urban planning professor has defined this as a process that occurs in discrete stages.


RICHARD FLORIDA @Richard_Florida 10:40 AM ET 2 Comments

Image Flickr/Andréa Portilla

Flickr/Andréa Portilla

Much has been made of the wave of millennials moving to cities. In intriguing new work, geographer and urban planner Markus Moos of the University of Waterloo gives the phenomenon a name: “youthification.” Moos defines youthfication as the “influx of young adults into higher density” cities and neighborhoods. And in some ways these neighborhoods are “forever young,” where new cohorts of young people continue to move in as families and children cycle out in search of more space.


Moos takes care to distinguish youthification from the broader process—and less precise construct—of gentrification. “The youthification process differs from gentrification—an increase in social status of a neighborhood—in that the former is not as explicitly a class-based process, although the two are not mutually exclusive,” he writes. “Gentrification, when viewed as a series of stages involving ever slightly wealthier but more risk averse in-movers, arguably has set the stage for a broader segment of the population. “


Moos explains youthification as a process that occurs in discrete stages (see the table below). It begins as younger people move into relatively inexpensive neighborhoods, such as those with spaces leftover from de-industrialized manufacturing districts. As youthification continues, newer rental housing and smaller one-bedroom condos are built and amenities flood the neighborhood, drawing greater numbers of young people even as living costs rise.





But which cities and metros are most “youthified?”


The map below, from Moos’ related online project “Generationed City”, charts selected metros across the U.S. and Canada according to youthification, which he defines here as the share of 25-34 year-old residents. There are some surprises. Salt Lake City tops the list, ahead of Austin, Denver, D.C. and Seattle. Houston and Las Vegas rank highly as well. In Canada, Calgary and Edmonton (two rapidly growing western metros) outpace Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. Less surprising, the Rustbelt metros of Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Rochester, Cleveland and Detroit rank at the bottom of the list.






But youthification is not just a characteristic of metros, it can be seen even more clearly at the neighborhood level. To get at this, Moos maps youthification by neighborhood in Canada’s three largest metros: Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. On the maps, darker red indicates higher levels of youthification.


In Toronto, youthification is concentrated in the urban core and along transit lines, clustering around the University of Toronto, Ryerson University and the Ontario College of Art and Design, and along College and Queen Streets, which offer abundant bars and restaurants. There are also significant blocks of young people at the ends of metro lines, where they can access more affordable housing served by transit.




In Vancouver, youthification takes more of a bloc-like pattern, concentrated mainly and radiating out from the city’s Burrard Inlet waterfront. Young Vancouverites also cluster around public transit and around main commercial drags, like Main Street and Commercial Drive.




In Montreal, young people are much more dispersed, albeit still mostly along transit lines (in green).



What lies behind youthification? To get at this question, Moos conducted a detailed statistical analysis of factors that might be associated with the movements of young people—such as household income, household size, the share of potential gentrifiers and the share of immigrants—across Canada’s three largest metros between 1981 and 2011.


While Moos finds several factors (including household income, household size and immigration) to be associated with higher density, he finds that the connection between density and age of residents has increased substantially over time. This is true of all three metros. In Montreal, the correlation between young people (aged 25 to 34) and density grew from .22 in 1981 to .66 by 2011; in Toronto, it went from .36 to .62; and in Vancouver it increased from .49 to .68.


The associations between density and older age groups (44-54 and 55-64 years old) have generally moved in the other direction, indicating that these individuals are moving toward the lower-density suburbs. In Toronto and Montreal, there is a negative correlation between people aged 65 and older and density. This points to growing geographic segregation of age groups in the city. In the case of Vancouver, however, Moos suggests this divide has become a “generational bifurcation,” where older and young people live in the inner cities and those in middle age live in the less dense suburbs.


Young people in the U.S. and Canada are experiencing less job security, high housing prices, delayed childbearing and an enthusiasm for urban living.

Why has this happened? And what does it mean? Moos suggests that these changes grow out of a number of socio-economic shifts. Young people in the U.S. and Canada are experiencing less job security, more chinks in the social safety net, high housing prices, delayed childbearing and a growing enthusiasm for urban living. For these reasons, renting closer to the city center—where increasing stocks of divided row housing and condos are readily available—becomes a more attractive option.


Of course, it remains to be seen whether this pattern will last. Will those who move to city centers in their 20s and 30s remain there to raise their children? Or will they pack it up and move to less dense places, leaving cities to become “forever young” zones that serve as resting stops for the transient?


As Moos notes, the generational divide he observes is not nearly as stark as that of ethnic or class segregation. Of course, older and younger people may meet and mingle in different fashions: through work, in restaurants or bars or in public transit. But, as he writes, “there are clear signs of a process of youthification underway that is indeed creating generationed spaces in our cities that if intensified in the future could lead to further inter-generational conflict.”


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  • 4 months later...





What Montreal's Skateboarding 'Epidemic' Looked Like 50 Years Ago

The 1966 film The Devil’s Toy documented the city’s skateboarding culture—and those who feared it.


MARK BYRNES @markbyrnes525 Jun 24, 2015 1 Comment


Long before one Canadian punished the earth with “Sk8er Boi,” another gifted us with The Devil’s Toy, a beautiful documentary that took a look at Montreal’s skateboarders and those who feared them.


Made in 1966 by Claude Jutra, the film’s narrator speaks in an alarmist tone about the hip new activity striking fear in the squarest of adults. Tongue firmly in cheek, he refers to it as “a dreaded disease which needed only pavement to multiply and proliferate.”


Justra, whose film is dedicated “to all victims of intolerance,” interrupts a satirically dramatic shot of teens charging down a neighborhood on their boards with a demonstration on how skateboards are designed and used. Another skateboarding montage is then interrupted by the cops, who confiscate all the boards they can get their hands on.


Banished to an indoor rink, the skateboarders try their best to have fun to no avail. “The battle was won,” says the narrator. “For the moment, we are safe.”


Fifty years later, things have gotten a lot better for Montreal’s skateboarders. As recounted by Jake Russell of VICE, skateboarding culture in the city has helped revitalize a troubled public park as well as a piece of outdated infrastructure from the ‘76 Olympics. The city has also, pending an update to Quebec’s Highway Safety Code, legalized skateboarding on city streets.


As for The Devil’s Toy, its legacy lives on: Last year, the National Film Board of Canada put together an interactive “redux” project, with directors from around the world making their own short films based on Jutra’s seminal work.


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Which Mode of Travel Provides the Happiest Commute?

Walkers, cyclists, and commuter-rail riders are much more satisfied than drivers and transit users.


ERIC JAFFE @e_jaffe Aug 20, 2014


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