We’ve heard a lot in the past few weeks about Chicago and its place among global cities. On Thursday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel set forth his proposal for a “new Chicago” that involves a wide variety of infrastructure improvements, private funding and more debt.
All that is supposed to put the city back among the list of the world’s best cities. But there are suggestions that Chicago actually needn’t bother.
Urbanist Richard Florida looks at why some cities lose and others win in a sweeping piece today on The Atlantic Cities. He notes that the world’s biggest cities have been dramatically reordered since 1950, when Chicago was the second biggest in the U.S. and eighth largest in the world.
Now, Chicago ranks third largest among American cities and 25th in the world. Florida suggests it probably doesn’t stand a chance to become more important, because it’s now part of the world’s tier of second and third-level cities.
As Florida writes,
“Simulations by Robert Axtell of George Mason University show that the biggest, dominant cities can survive and thrive for a very long time. New York has been America’s largest city since its first census in 1790. London has been the United Kingdom’s largest city for a very long time. Athens and Rome have remained influential long past their prime.
But the competition and “churning” among smaller second- and third-tier cities is brutal. These cities rise and fall frequently. Early in the 20th century, rising industrial cities in the United States and Europe displaced once dominant mercantile centers. By the end of that century, many of those same industrial cities were being replaced by knowledge-based ones.”