Improve quality of life downtown, reduce our carbon footprint

A possible move by a Connecticut-based UBS bank back to downtown New York City illustrates how a vibrant city life can attract people to live in the city center.

Bebeto Matthews / AP
Justin Sunga says he feels "fresh and renewed" as he takes in a foggy Manhattan skyline from the Dumbo section of Brooklyn on Thursday, May 19, 2011 in New York. When the quality of life is improved downtown, more people choose to move there.

Where do the skilled want to live and work? Those areas have a bright future. This article provides a quick case study of the possibility that UBS bank may move from the "boring" NYC suburbs back to the Center City because the bankers want to live downtown without the nasty commute.

To quote the article:

"It turns out that a suburban location has become a liability in recruiting the best and brightest young bankers, who want to live in Manhattan or Brooklyn, not in Stamford, Conn., which is about 35 miles northeast of Midtown. The firm has also discovered that it would be better to be closer to major clients in New York City."

So, this has been a major theme of my work for several years. Ed Glaeser and I discuss some of these issues here and here. In ongoing work, I have been interested in measuring how compact city living shrinks our carbon footprint as center city residents live in smaller housing units, use public transit more and drive less. If you want to see some work on this, read this.

One of Ed Glaeser's big themes is that city living will be in high demand if cities are productive or have high consumer amenity value.
This UBS case suggests that because NYC has high consumer attractions (i.e good restaurants, access to the NY Post, updates on Trump) that skilled people want to live there and when they agglomerate there this then offers productivity benefits for other skilled people to live and work nearby in order to have a power lunch.

What can Detroit learn from this case?

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