Post-COVID Urbanism Discussion

jpdivola

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I'm fairly skeptical about municipal government-led incentives to move to otherwise down and out cities. But, moving from the high cost costal cities to less expensive cities has been the social trend for a long time.

 

Lrfox

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I'm fairly skeptical about municipal government-led incentives to move to otherwise down and out cities. But, moving from the high cost costal cities to less expensive cities has been the social trend for a long time.

So am I unless the "incentive" is improving transit connectivity between high coast coastal cities and nearby down and out cities. That benefits everyone, not just the handful of folks that are getting their moving costs taken care of.

I love living in the Boston area. I regularly defend the high cost for minimal space to my friends who are in the suburbs/exurbs. The three big reasons why I love it here are:
  1. The length of the commute and the number of options for commuting (transit, bike, walking, and yes... car).
  2. The easy access to a variety of amenities and entertainment in a concentrated area due the the urbanity/density of the city.
  3. The concentration of professionals in similar fields (and the networking opportunities).
But COVID could be a game changer, even for me. Given the concentration of economic activity in the Boston area, few other places in MA/NH/RI offer #1 or #3. Some places offer #2, but the lack of #1 and #3 take them off the table for me. But if remote work (even partial) becomes a permanent option for me, then the scales tip a little. #1 would no longer be an issue, and while nowhere has the concentration Boston does, I enjoy a few other smaller urban areas in MA/RI/NH for their urbanity and amenities/entertainment. So #3 becomes the biggest challenge and that's not necessarily a deal breaker for me.
 

Arlington

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I see the migration thing as a economic inequality thing.
The small number of "elites"* are doing well and moving to the cities (or buying homes in *both* the city and a far flung exurb)
The mass of people, struggling, are moving out of the core or away from elite cities altogether

This is how we can simultaneously have the Boston** core claiming more people, but Boston metro losing people

To me it means that Mass (as a state) should double-down on the Gateway Cities project to make Haverhill, Lowell, Fitchburg, Worcester, Attleboro, Middleboro more attractive (keep talent in-state) and to build East-West rail to tie Springfieldland & Worcesterland to NYC and Boston via the Inland Route.

And along the way, how could we encourage the Berkshires (vs the Catskills) as a hinterland to NYC?

*Asset managers, top coders, biotech, info-media

**or any overpriced metro that has an attractive core
 

KentXie

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I think for some cities, the amenities just doesn't justify the cost. I was looking into San Francisco due to the fact that my career aligns closer to the companies in the Bay Area than the LA area but after reading SF residents' experiences, the idea that I would probably still need to live with 3 other roommates despite getting paid just over 6 figures is a deal breaker for me. Luckily I've already seen job postings about remote work where HQ is located in cities such as Seattle and SF so it's possible that one day us "non elites" (even at close to 6 figures) can still get paid and live comfortably.
 

Vagabond

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We can see the amount of runners/bikers/walkers out during the day wandering around (previously underutilized) paths all over Boston, and the outdoor seating appears to be a huge success, especially at night in the North End. This activity and access of "things to do" is becoming more evident to be the lifeblood of a city, not the office-centric nature of them.

Are other cities experiencing the same reimagining? Are these activities now more permanent?
 

cubalibre

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Yes, other large cities have turned into outdoor playgrounds as well, with more pedestrians and more people on bikes. This will remain the new way of life until December when the weather turns ugly in the northeastern cities. What then?
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Yes, other large cities have turned into outdoor playgrounds as well, with more pedestrians and more people on bikes. This will remain the new way of life until December when the weather turns ugly in the northeastern cities. What then?
Somehow I doubt this December people are going to be as satisfied to hunker down indoors, seeing as how that's been most of March - ??? this year for them. Tarp, space heaters, and dutiful adherence to the fire code will still bring quite a few out for dining in spite of the season. Give out some freebie/cheapie hand-warmers and a hot chocolate vendor and that's all the excuse others need to do something recreational. It works for First Night. You've just got to package a little of that type of 'specialness' around ordinary activities. Many cold-weather cities around the globe do that quite successfully, and a lot moreso than Boston has ever seriously attempted.

I mean...sure, biking takes a necessary dip in those months because pavement conditions degrade too much across-the-board and early darkness makes anything PM-commute time an order of magnitude less safe than the other 9 months of the year. But I don't ever remember getting freebie in-bed days from my regularly fucked Red Line commute and 20-min. walk to/fro because it was cold out or snotting something half-liquid/half-solid from the sky. People are always out in Winter. Just cater it accordingly. I mean, we kinda have no choice but to cater accordingly if NY/New England (if the great Jersey/Greater Philly firewall can hold) is to be the only region of the country with a snowball's chance of sustaining even a partially-functional Xmas shopping season and partially functional Holiday hullabaloo.
 

bakgwailo

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Once did hot pot at a place in Quincy in the middle of winter in their outdoor patio. They had heaters/etc, tent up, and it wasn't that bad honestly. Feet were a bit cold by the end of the night, though. Maybe just put a heater at that level, too.
 

KentXie

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I think the issue is the frequent winter storms. Outdoor patio isn't going to protect diners from that.
 

George_Apley

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I think the issue is the frequent winter storms. Outdoor patio isn't going to protect diners from that.
Are diners typically filling restaurants during snowstorms? Usually people are home attending to their own snowy affairs and don't try to go out to eat until the cleanup is handled. Obviously the ability to keep a patio clear of snow is dependent on the amount of snow that falls in a season and also on the willingness of the city to allow them year round.
 

KentXie

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Are diners typically filling restaurants during snowstorms? Usually people are home attending to their own snowy affairs and don't try to go out to eat until the cleanup is handled. Obviously the ability to keep a patio clear of snow is dependent on the amount of snow that falls in a season and also on the willingness of the city to allow them year round.
I guess it's more like, how are restaurateur's going to operate their restaurant? Do they decide to close for the day if a snow storm is in the forecast. How do they handle their staff, i.e. do they put them in a constant state of being called in to work at a moment's notice? And how do they communicate this to their customers who may or may not know if the restaurant is open for business that day.
 

George_Apley

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I guess it's more like, how are restaurateur's going to operate their restaurant? Do they decide to close for the day if a snow storm is in the forecast. How do they handle their staff, i.e. do they put them in a constant state of being called in to work at a moment's notice? And how do they communicate this to their customers who may or may not know if the restaurant is open for business that day.
That's fair enough, but that's already how restaurants tend to operate during inclement weather, unless they're part of a hotel or something.
 

Rover

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I think for some cities, the amenities just doesn't justify the cost. I was looking into San Francisco due to the fact that my career aligns closer to the companies in the Bay Area than the LA area but after reading SF residents' experiences, the idea that I would probably still need to live with 3 other roommates despite getting paid just over 6 figures is a deal breaker for me. Luckily I've already seen job postings about remote work where HQ is located in cities such as Seattle and SF so it's possible that one day us "non elites" (even at close to 6 figures) can still get paid and live comfortably.
I think its highly unlikely companies are going to pay people a Seattle or SF wage to work from Idaho or Kansas full time. That's a point I fear too many people are missing. Its one thing to say people will live in the metro area and not the center of the city, so that they can go into the office when needed or part of the time and then work from home part time. I have experience with this as part of my job, and I can tell you companies have to know what the going wage is for employees wherever they're located for a variety of reasons (local laws, new hire offers, pay equity issues (aka paying women the same wage as men for the same work). There are vendors out there solely dedicated to studying this. If you relocate to a cheaper place to work, some beancounter in the CFO group is going to make themselves a million dollar bonus by coming up with a cost cutting measure - you get paid the going rate for where you decided to telecommute from, not where the office is. If you don't like that, good luck finding another job in Kansas or Mississippi. Yes, some highly skilled and valued employees will still get to work at a higher rate, but that's going to be a select few. Its super naïve to think otherwise IMHO.
 

Vagabond

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If you relocate to a cheaper place to work, you get paid the going rate for where you decided to telecommute from, not where the office is. If you don't like that, good luck finding another job in Kansas or Mississippi. Yes, some highly skilled and valued employees will still get to work at a higher rate, but that's going to be a select few. Its super naïve to think otherwise IMHO.
I can verify this partially from the last decade plus of hiring. If [edit: an existing employee] moves I've never seen salary reduced, but we've absolutely tailored new offers with a COLA to where the individual is located. That doesn't mean that this will not change rapidly in the new WFH age, but most companies (and people) don't know how to switch jobs not-locally yet.

So Kansas talent gets a Kansas offer, but it's more than that. Maybe it's just my industry (energy/analytics)... but distance talent has historically been much weaker, so I don't see that changing... Right now the top talent pools are in the cities, and the offer size is more because the talent is more competitive in cities, much moreso than we've cared about the living situation. Industries will adapt at different rates.
 
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Rover

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I can verify this partially from the last decade plus of hiring. If someone moves I've never seen salary reduced, but we've absolutely tailored offers with a COLA to where the individual is located. That doesn't mean that this will not change rapidly in the new WFH age, but most companies (and people) don't know how to switch jobs not-locally yet.

So Kansas talent gets a Kansas offer, but it's more than that. Maybe it's just my industry (energy/analytics)... but distance talent has historically been much weaker, so I don't see that changing... Right now the top talent pools are in the cities, and the offer size is more because the talent is more competitive in cities, much moreso than we've cared about the living situation. Industries will adapt at different rates.
A friend of mine did have to take a pay cut to go from MA to FL. Company which was a very large employer told him point blank it was because of the move, and then he found out FL isn't that much cheaper to live in than MA! (sales tax, house insurance, property tax, private school because education system sucks, etc). He ended up moving out after awhile.

That's a one off though and I do agree that I've rarely seen a pay cut, but we're in unchartered territory now. Companies need to save money during the pandemic. In our speculation of what the new normal is going to be, less money in exchange for telecommuting full time from a cheaper location could also end up being part of the equation. Particularly if bonuses are being handed out. Our resident futurists out here don't seem to be considering that as much as they should.
 

jklo

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I think its highly unlikely companies are going to pay people a Seattle or SF wage to work from Idaho or Kansas full time. That's a point I fear too many people are missing.
At the same time you aren't going to get SF wages if you work remotely from SF. There's definitely the potential for wide scale wage depression among "high wage" jobs.
 

Rover

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I agree with that. Unless you're a superstar one would think you aren't getting SF wages from a company who's office is in Utah and everybody else is making a Salt Lake City salary.

WFH has its advantages but it seems those are all that gets talked about and the downsides are getting lost in the shuffle. Really needs to be part of the calculation or people are going to be in for some unpleasant surprises. I also don't know how easy it will be to land a new job remotely if you're a thousand miles away from the hiring manager and everybody else in the company.
 

KriterionBOS

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also not to continue to harp on the death of the CBD but green street advisor's had a great piece for Wednesday's nights article saying that essentially downtowns are dead coming out of COVID due to suburban flight for companies, downsizing of office footprints, and potential for spiking crime rates in cities as a result of reduced tax base....
Is it possible that CBDs will merely be transformed into primarily posh residential neighborhoods instead of commerical business districts? I happened to chat with a lady here in Nashville who works for real estate and one of their properties is the currently U/C 4 seasons tower in Downtown Nashville (542', 42 floors). When I asked how the units were selling in the aftermath of COVID, she remarked that they are selling out fast ie demand was as high as ever. She made it seem like demand was actually increased. A 1 bedroom starts at 900k (for anyone curious) and the top floor penthouses go for 25M, IIRC.

If what she said is true, I'd imagine demand for CBD housing in places like Boston, NYC, DC/Arlington VA, SF, Seattle, Charlotte, Austin, Miami will still be high.
 
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