Are gay neighbours good for property values?
Even though you may personally despise those perfectly trimmed topiaries that flank each side of the freshly painted red front door on Fred and Barney's just-restored picture-perfect Cape Code dwell, replete with vintage coach lamp and brass door knocker, research shows that the presence of gay and lesbian homeowners may indicate increasing property values.
Did you know that?
In the book "Who's Your City?: How The Creative Economy Is Making Where To Live The Most Important Decision Of Your Life" (Random House 2008), author Richard Florida, an urban theorist and economist explores how the rise of the creative class - made up of highly innovative, highly creative individuals - are poised to increasingly influence urban economies.
Florida's theory asserts that urban centres with high concentrations of artists, musicians, technology workers, lesbians and gays, and other "high bohemians" correlate with a higher level of economic development, and signal the rise of a burgeoning new creative class and economy.
This creative class chooses urban centres that not only meet their economic and career aspirations but also provide a better quality of life culturally, intellectually, aesthetically and energetically. Furthermore, with transferable occupational skill sets, their location choice is not limited to a city or province, but broader geographies including different countries or continents. As a result, the opportunity for future urban centres to prosper rather than decline may be dependent on how well any location satisfies the needs of this growing global work force.
As part of his research, Florida developed his own ranking systems to gauge the success of any urban centre including a Bohemian index, a Diversity index and a Gay index. The higher the total index values, the more likely a city will attract this creative class and subsequent economic investment. The book is an interesting read.
Which leads me to segue on how sensational our weekend was here in Toronto, where one the world's largest Gay Pride celebrations ramped up into a full-blown extravaganza. Expertly organized with loads of events and entertainment dotted over several city blocks, the city was bursting with happy people. One could feel the crescendo building as the week's events progressed, culminating in Sunday's annual Pride Parade. Under a clear blue sky and scorching sun, cool lake breezes tempered what might have been an unbearably hot weekend. The weather was bliss.
What a distinct contrast from last week when the G20 summit protests left city streets tattered in ruins, police cruisers charred and over 600 people arrested in the ensuing mayhem. The concrete and steel fence blockades, restricted road access and mammoth security forces transformed downtown into a police state under siege. It was eerie and rather disconcerting.
Fortunately, the arrival of Canada Day and Pride dispelled much of the previous week's darkness. Whether it was a subconscious reaction to the troubling events of last week, or because Pride is all about respect, acceptance and unity, Torontonians collectively reclaimed the streets with unbridled enthusiasm and joy. With an equally large part of the city restricted to traffic like last week, none of the concrete barricades and only a fraction of the police presence, over a million people of all walks of life (presumably the Bohemians, the Diverse and the Gays Richard Florida indexes) joined the party. It was nothing short of amazing.
One highlight was battling my fear of large potentially-unruly crowds to attend the free Cyndi Lauper concert at Queen's Park on Saturday night after enjoying a well-executed meal at the very french Tati Bistro on Harbord. A quick note if you're going - in summer always reserve a table on the second level terrace - you'll dine under a canopy of mature trees beautifully uplit at night - it's the essence of urban ethereal.
Strolling a few blocks east to the park for the 9pm concert, the lush bucolic setting was magical and mystical as the sun set. Amongst a stand of century old trees the high tech concert stage towered, blazingly lit, making the rest of the grounds disappear like a black forest. Fortunately, the darkness obscured the extent of the massive crowd which might have otherwise overwhelmed me. In lieu of distress, I managed to step on a number of toes.
Amazing Cyndi performed all my old school favorites plus some new tunes, closing the show with her Pride-adopted anthem 'True Colors'. It was a powerful finale. As the song progressed to the chorus, Cyndi engaged the audience by singing one phrase herself and then directing the crowd to sing the next, alternating until everyone in the park was singing True Colors en mass. Finding myself swaying with thousands of Pride concertgoers singing about the power of authenticity resonated deeply. As Cyndi Lauper's lyrics proclaim, we are each unique individuals. Yet, in that powerful synchronistic moment where everyone bonded singing the finale, it was apparent we are also One.
Behold the spirit of Pride.
And the good fortune of living in ever-creative Toronto.
Title Photo: BlackYouthProject.com