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The Ultimate Smackdown

November 2017 | view this story as a .pdf

We’ve earned our 18 hours of fame.

By Colin W. Sargent

Nov17-The-Ultimate-SmackdownThe 18-Hour City. It’s a nifty investment handle, though it has yet to crack into café society.

Will it become the lingua franca of commercial-real-estate gurus? How better to describe emerging cultural capitals like Portland, Maine!

We’re not too urban, like Manhattan–a nerve-jangling ‘24-hour city.’ We’re walkable and suburban, yet we still enjoy the illusion of a skyline, though our proportions are so bijou gulls and eagles can rest on our tallest buildings.

We haven’t ‘renaissanced’ in such a mercantile way that everyone’s sick of us, and (I’ll drop to a whisper) we’re just a shade too genuine to be hipster. Oh, yeah, Portland, Maine. For many visitors, we beckon like the last drink they’ve never tried.

After all, Brooklyn’s so 2014. Ditto for Portland, Oregon, with 10 times our population but a fraction of our originality.

Richard Barringer of The Muskie School is interested in the concept and its origins. “It started with the 24-hour city, with real-estate types. The first time I heard of the 24-hour city was from a developer in Boston in the 1980s, before Boston became a 24-hour city. I feel that yes, Portland is evolving into an 18-hour city, with exceptions. There’s the fragmentation of effort, and the absence of a coherent strategy for moving forward–not just a haphazard response to immediate real-estate opportunities. Right now, there’s the absence of a really commanding sense of public transportation here, because the age of the automobile is coming to a crashing end, I hope, as a public transportation solution.”

The attraction of an 18-hour city seems to dovetail with the new study “Greater Portland Tomorrow: Choices for Sustained Prosperity,” Fall 2017.  This report, the work of a team led by Barringer, is available electronically at digitalcommons.usm.maine.edu.

Just like the 18-hour city criteria, the need for new workers coming to Portland is a driver. Consider this variable, addressed by graphs in the study: “Imagine if no one moved to Portland for 16 years, not a soul. What would happen to the economy and labor force? What about taxes for public schools and needed public infrastructure? Then, imagine that 1,500 young adults move to Portland each year. How would this change the labor force and economy?”

Because Huffington Post financial writer Rebecca Lake helped conceptualize the 18-Hour City and legitimized it with her definition of the term in Investopedia, here’s how she breaks this “viable investment alternative” down: “An 18-Hour City is a second-tier city with above-average urban population growth that offers a lower cost of living and lower cost of doing business than first-tier cities.”

Lake identifies the “big six” as first tier: “Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.” 

That’s an 18-hour city, then? “Charlotte, Denver and Portland, for example, have become target for Millennials [the word emphasized in click-thru blue] whose goal is launching or advancing their career. Eighteen-hour cities are often characterized by the availability of recreation and entertainment opportunities that extend beyond what the typical suburban city affords.”

Whoops, she means the ‘other’ Portland.

Paradoxically, I feel Charlotte, Denver, and the ‘other’ Portland are so obviously 18-hour cities that they aren’t really 18-hour cities anymore. Why would (I use Lake’s term) Millennials target these destinations if their older brothers and sisters have already tried them on and pushed them to the back of the closet (along with that velour hoodie you were sure would change everything)?

Sorry, Portland, Oregon, but PDX is so 2011. PWM is the rising commodity. Just look at the Yahoo smackdown between the two Portlands online. Portlandia is in its last season. That says it all. This is the year of PWM rising (we have much better sculptures at our airport than Denver). Oh, and by the way, the proper pronunciation of “Keep Portland Weird” is ‘WEE-ID.’

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