Minneapolis, Today and Tomorrow

Growing up in all white and mostly Jewish Oak Park (Michigan) of the 1950’s my only encounters with black people were our 70 year old landscaper my grandparents referred to as ‘boy’ and an occasional maid. My grandparents lived south of 8 mile and would take us to eat at ‘Little Black Sambo’s’ restaurant. That was the ‘normal’ I was raised in.

Then, my first day in Junior High School, and the first incidence of the new bussing laws, I went to get a drink of water and a black kid jumped in front of me punching me in the face and I came to in the principals office. I don’t recall anyone getting punished for that. Essentially we learned fast to keep away from the black kids. I was not angry at them, but at us white people. Even back then, as I rode my bike into Detroit, I’d see the racism and look at the new ‘projects’ white people built for them that quite frankly I thought shocking. I certainly would not want to live in those instant slums. It would influence my planning of cities to this day.

With bussing – you could not simply hide the problem of haves and have nots. It got me to think – what if I was black? How angry would I be to see my parents and grandparents being held back because of my skin color and what kind of future hope would I have? It did not help that the Jewish neighborhood I lived in was filled with little princes and princesses that judged on the brand clothes being worn, and that my father dressed us in cheap clothing. For the most part, we were not popular and essentially were treated with disdain, not too much differently than the black kids were. I became a young anti-semitic Jew – I was ashamed of my own people until I reached my late 20’s.

Then came the 1968 riots. I lived two miles north of the Detroit border – close enough to remember the smoke billowing from the city wondering (at 15 years old) why people were so incredibly stupid as to burn their own city to the ground? I understood the anger, but could not fathom why anyone in their right mind, or not, would burn the very homes and businesses they lived and worked in. We immediately put our home for sale like most everyone and moved out to the far edge of West Bloomfield, bussed to the all-white Walled Lake High School where my sister and I were the first two Jews. Because the country kids did not judge on clothes, we were embraced in this new school and had many friends. We were far from Detroit and far from the problem.

White flight fostered explosive growth in the region, and it was in 1968 that I began working for Don C. Geake Associates the leading land planning firm which was an incredible experience designing hundreds of developments annually for the 6 years I worked there. Ironically, for me, the riots provided the basis for a lifelong career.

The aftermath of the Detroit riots would be felt in the black community for generations, not just a few years. The overall City of Detroit may never recover – at least not on the planning agenda of the current leaders.

The problem is not just as simple as black & white, but how we are brought up behind closed doors. If we are born white taught that black people are a certain stereotype and they should be feared or hated or born black and taught to hate whites or raised with derogatory terms, I believe that is the root of the problems back then as well as today.

Minneapolis Today:

The City of Minneapolis is far different than the Detroit I grew up in, not just because it’s like 90+% white, but even the worst areas of this City is not all that bad. There are no slums or downtrodden areas like vast regions of Detroit. Is there racism? You betcha there is. It’s like an invisible layer – but is a thick invisible layer. Walk my liberal neighborhood and you will see there’s a ton of ‘Black Lives Matter’ signs. This is 2020 – why do you need to even place a sign like that? The racism is not just blacks, it’s gays, Indians (native Americans), Mexicans, - in other words ‘working class’ people.

This City regulations (i.e. MetCouncil and Minneapolis) themselves in my opinion are racist. Busses are for ‘working class’ people. We need high density mid to high-rise development in otherwise single family areas so ‘working class’ people have a place to live. I’d have a pretty good guess what color ‘working class’ people are, and it’s not very white. What’s wrong with ‘working class’ having a car or a home with a yard they can be proud of? What sense of pride is it to be attached next to, below, or above, another ‘working class’ family with a common hallway for the kids to play? The ‘working class’ are treated as second and third class citizens. This is that unspoken invisible layer of racism – I’m sure well-intentioned but damaging nevertheless.

When the Police kill an innocent Black citizen – once that’s a crime – when they do it multiple times that’s unacceptable. Burn and loot in retaliation only takes 52 years of progress and resets the clock to 1968. Do you think those groceries and other businesses will be quick to re-open? Do you think an employer will now choose to hire or promote a well-qualified black over a less qualified one white because of this riot? These businesses will likely relocate to the suburbs, as well as many residents – just like Detroit. Even worse – how many will now move out of Minnesota? How many businesses considering Minnesota will now look elsewhere?

The damage is far more reaching than a few buildings destroyed. I have no answers – I wish I did, but businesses will move out of the more affordable areas that desperately need them. These mob destroyers of property will soon find out their anger will not get them ahead – only farther behind for a very long time to come.

Minneapolis Tomorrow:

I firmly believe that there are solutions to affordable transportation and housing that fosters a sense of self-worth but not with the current thinking of the regulatory agencies who embrace a Portland Model of growth and need not consider market proven alternatives. This is also true of our experiences trying to work within Detroit. You can’t undo the past few days, and hopefully we do not go down that quick drain of the past. The past few decades our region has been about social engineering – if anything, it’s not working so well, at least for ‘those’ working class families. These few bad police must be punished,- harshly, but I’m sure glad we have the good ones risking their lives to protect us.

Anyhow just my experiences and opinion, not that it will matter much.

Rick Harrison is President of Rick Harrison Site Design Studio and Neighborhood Innovations, LLC. He is author of Prefurbia: Reinventing The Suburbs From Disdainable To Sustainable and creator of LandMentor. His websites are and

The Future of Residential and Commercial Real Estate

What is the future of real estate after Covid-19? Please join Richard Florida, Joel Kotkin, Marshall Toplansky and other leading experts to see where the real estate market is going. We will be discussing issues including the future of office space, retail, affordable housing, inner cities, suburbs and small towns.

Save the date: June 2nd 10:30AM - 12:00PM (1:30PM to 3:00PM EDT)


Please click the link below to join the webinar:


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Dial(for higher quality, dial a number based on your current location):

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Joel Kotkin on COVID-19's Impact on Work and Life

Chapman University's Joel Kotkin on C-Span, talking about the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on urban centers in the United States.

The Feudal Future Podcast — Coming Soon! (Launching: Sunday May 31st)

With the new class structure resembling that of the Medieval times, freedom of choice around how to live and work is quickly disappearing for small business people, property owners, skilled workers and private sector professionals.

CHECK OUT THE TRAILER for the upcoming new podcast presented by Chapman University, where world renown author Joel Kotkin and tech entrepreneur Marshall Toplansky are exploring what it takes to liberate the global middle class -- sitting down with business, government and citizen leaders to uncover the trends and share insights and tools to forge a better future.

Subscribe to the show on Apple & Stitcher (Spotify coming soon), and on YouTube for show video clips and highlights. Show notes will be available at

To read more about these ideas, please pick up a copy of Joel Kotkin’s new book, The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class.

- - -
This show is supported by the Chapman Center for Demographics & Policy, which focuses on research and analysis of global, national and regional demographic trends and explores policies that might produce favorable demographic results over time.

Chapman Center for Demographics & Policy:

On the Death of Australia's Jane Jacobs

The life of trade union leader Jack Mundey, who died this week, is being celebrated across the Australian media. He undoubtedly had a long lasting impact on Sydney, but perhaps in ways most commentators fail to acknowledge. As secretary of the communist controlled NSW Builders Labourers’ Federation from 1968 to 1975, Mundey pioneered a boycott tactic which came to be known as ‘the green ban’. In short, if the union disapproved of a property development on heritage or environmental grounds, BLF members would be withheld from the site. The BLF’s share of the construction workforce was such that this type of strike effectively killed the project.

Mundey came on the scene at a crucial time in Sydney’s post-war history. Cost-efficient developments in transportation technology like motorisation, particularly trucking, and containerization ended the industrial sector’s need for proximity to maritime facilities, which had been the case since settlement, and rail junctions, which had emerged in the mid-19th century. This led to a dramatic transformation in Sydney’s industrial geography, including a process of inner-city deindustrialization. The traditional light industrial ring surrounding the CBD and extending westward along the harbour foreshores began to disappear. Transport hubs which had serviced the ring like Darling Harbour wharves and rail yards became redundant. As factory, workshop and warehouse owners moved their operations to cheaper sites in the western suburbs, industrial workers left the inner-city in droves for the prospect of a quarter acre block. Until now, the cost of housing across inner suburbs was suppressed by low amenity associated with noisy and dirty industry. The departure of these activities combined with locational advantages created the potential for a rapid escalation of land and property values.

Read the rest of this piece at The New City Journal Blogspot.

Young Firms and Regional Economic Growth

Young Firms and Regional Economic Growth demonstrates how knowledge-intensive and Main Street entrepreneurs are critical to long-term economic success. Metropolitans and micropolitans that started with stronger entrepreneurial ecosystems, as measured by the share of total employment at firms age five years or fewer (young firm employment share) and by the share of employment at those young firms with a bachelor’s degree or higher (young firm knowledge intensity), saw notably faster employment growth between 2010 and 2017 in the United States.

Most Heartland communities did not participate fully in entrepreneurial-driven job growth. There are multiple causes for the subpar rate of job creation in the Heartland besides low engagement in entrepreneurial activities; lower educational attainment with less emphasis placed on innovation tied to research and development stands out among them. However, no other single factor can claim a higher explanatory power than entrepreneurial activities.

Huge financial incentives to lure manufacturing facilities or other operations into a region is no longer cost-effective. The key to long-term economic success lies in developing environments that are conducive for entrepreneurs to start and scale up their firms.

Read the rest of the piece at Heartland Forward.

Download full report here.

3 Reasons COVID-19 is Creating a Rural Employment Crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic is creating a health crisis unlike anything we’ve ever seen. But the disease’s damage doesn’t stop there. With millions of people forced to stay at home, the economy has cratered. 701,000 people lost their job in March alone—the worst month for American jobs since the Great Recession in March 2009.

At CORI, we knew there was an economic crisis happening in rural America even before this crash. Small town industries have been declining, tech jobs have boomed only in cities, and young people have left their rural hometowns in search of opportunity. And without good access to broadband, rural areas haven’t been able to tap into the digital economy’s growth.

All those existing challenges made us worried about what could happen when a COVID-related recession hit. Led by our in-house economist Mark Rembert, we created an Employment Risk Index, which ranks counties by how vulnerable they are to losing jobs based on three factors relevant to the COVID crisis: employment in high-risk industries, employment in small businesses, and age of workforce. What we found was troubling: Rural America faces a disproportionately high employment risk.

20th century industries are hardest hit

Our analysis found four industries at highest risk from COVID-19, whether through decreased demand or an inability to employ remote work: tourism, manufacturing, transportation, and natural resource production. In metro areas, these industries make up just 43 percent of all jobs. In rural areas, they represent an astonishing 56 percent.

View the geographical data and read the rest of this article at Center on Rural Innovation (CORI).

Reprinted with permission from American Geographical Society

Aidan Calvelli is Research and Communications Analyst at CORI. He has edited books and articles about democracy and the presidency that have been featured by national news outlets and publishers. Aidan grew up in Rochester, NY and Shelburne, VT, and holds an A.B. in Political Theory from Brown University.

New Report: A Policy of Delusion and Misdirection

A new report authored by Joel Kotkin, Ali Modarres, and Wendell Cox examines how California's planning policies are contributing to the affordable housing crisis. An excerpt follows and a link to read/download the entire report.

“California’s leaders speak much about housing affordability, but their policy agenda seems designed to prolong and worsen the crisis. As it has done for almost a generation, the state has placed ever increasing burdens on housing developers, and now seems determined to “solve” the crisis by adding more challenges to anyone seeking to expand housing.

The failure of this approach should be manifest. Governor Newsom has called for building 3.5 million new homes by 2025. Yet housing construction continues to be muted, with the 2019 building permit number of 119,000 below the last two years and far below the 315,000 permits issued in 1986, when California had one-third fewer residents. At the current rate it would require more than 30 years to build 3.5 million houses.

Much of the political leadership sees the housing crisis as the result of a shortage in housing supply. However, supply alone cannot resolve the housing affordability crisis. The supply of housing has to be affordable to middle and low income households.

Clearly, the state’s principal housing strategy, Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA), has not restored housing affordability. RHNA requires metropolitan planning agencies, counties and cities to zone sufficient land for housing production targets. But land and regulatory costs in the state are so high that builders can earn a competitive return on investment only on houses that are too expensive for nearly all middle-income households to afford.”

Read or download the full report here.

Indianapolis Backs $25 Million in Paycheck Protection Loans

I want to highlight a great development here in Indianapolis. The city of Indianapolis has approved allocating $25 million to fund federal paycheck protection program loans underwritten by the Indy Chamber. (Full disclosure: I am a consultant for the chamber).

The SBA’s forgivable Paycheck Protection Program was such a big hit that the loan funds were entirely allocated in short order. Congress just provided an additional allocation of funds, with $30 billion reserved for CDFI (community development financial institution) type lenders.

The Indy Chamber is an existing CDFI that was already making loans through its Rapid Response Loan fund. The city’s $25 million will significantly scale up this local effort by providing the initial capital needed to underwrite these loans.

These new PPP loans are being targeted as businesses with 50 or fewer employees and in amounts of $75,000 or less. So this program is directly targeted at true small businesses.

There’s definitely a lot of work still to do, but Indy is on the forefront of local communities mobilizing to help small businesses navigate through this crisis

Aaron M. Renn is an opinion-leading urban analyst, consultant, speaker, and writer on a mission to help America’s cities and people thrive and find real success in the 21st century.

The Sidewalks of Montreal

Montreal’s mayor Valerie Plante has “widened” some sidewalks to provide sufficient space for pedestrian use while providing sufficient social distancing. Where implemented, sidewalks have been widened to 4.5 meters (nearly 15 feet) by extension into streets (with barriers to protect from car and truck traffic.) This action is being taken only in the highest volume areas of the city.