Clifford Pearson Robert Ivy
What city do you predict will be hit the hardest by the economic crisis?
RI: Cities that will be hard hit include prosperous places like Las Vegas that had boomed on easy credit and the rising housing market and will continue to face the credit crunch. Lack of disposable income should affect gaming, tourism, and trade shows — all staples of the Las Vegas economy. Unfortunately, cities already reeling from weakened economies or natural disaster, such as New Orleans, will also suffer, with fewer easy dollars flowing to regenerate commerce.
CP: I think places like Charlotte, N.C., are going to be hit the hardest. These are the cities that developed in the past 10 to 15 years into major regional hubs with national financial muscle. Both Wachovia (which collapsed and was bought by Citibank) and Bank of America are based in Charlotte and the troubles in the financial services sector will certainly shake the city in 2009.
Will there be a comeback in Detroit (beyond the auto industry, but in the city itself)? If yes, how? If no, what will happen to the city then?
RI: Detroit’s massive land area and large single-family housing stock, spread over so many square miles, will face additional challenges in 2009, as Mo-Town faces less.
If 2008 was the year of “green” and “sustainability,” 2009 will be the year of …..?
RI: If the Obama administration has its way, “repair and rebuild” may be our mantra, though necessary fix-ups of our decaying roads and bridges and rail can only take us so far.
CP: 2009 will be the year of surviving and (hopefully) rethinking the future.
What is the story in your city that no one is covering that you think will make the news this year?
RI: New York is written to death. I also live in a small town in the South that retains much of the best of the American ideal, where social diversity isn’t so much a catch-phrase as a reality of everyday life, where the urban setting allows you to walk to work, trees cool the hottest days and a river flows nearby. Nevertheless, a major new steel plant originally funded by a Russian corporation for recycling compressed metal has temporarily closed due to the international downturn, particularly in automobile sales, and the car lots seem empty. Not only cities, but small towns are affected by the financial crisis, though the repercussions in Mississippi seem less pronounced than in a large city.
CP: A story to watch in New York in 2009 will be: Will foreigners keep bailing us out? During the past few years, a rising tide of Europeans, Russians, Chinese and Japanese have bought fancy apartments in the city, keeping the real-estate market vibrant even as home prices in most other parts of the U.S. dropped. Now that economies in these foreign lands have started to wobble and the Euro has lost strength against the dollar, will New York apartment prices finally tank? And who’s going to whoop it up in all those big clubs in TriBeCa and the Meatpacking District and pay $30 for pasta in all of the city’s restaurants?
Diana Lind is the former executive director and editor in chief of Next City.