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Europe in focus: London's Tech City

Posted by Chad O'Connor  August 19, 2013 11:00 AM

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[Editor's Note: Continuing the series begun with a focus on Dublin and the Irish recovery]

A while back we ran in this space what I consider to be a definitive and comprehensive piece on London's Tech City zone from Phil Budden and Fiona Murray. So while in London I had to come see it for myself to put it in it's proper context. And the visual results are thus: Cambridge, Massachusetts, you were clearly onto something with your recipe for the Boston area's tech success.

Here is a view from Old Street circle (sorry, "roundabout"):

As I noted at the time of the picture, this isn't exactly a pro-tech juxtaposition, with something vaguely reminiscent of a Disney's CaliforniaTomorrowland style sculpture, now hanging ads for Apple products, and somehow a giant beach ball across the way.

But what this photo doesn't convey is what's going on behind me: 2 huge sweeping towers that look like silver sails, and across the way from that a cemetery that houses some historically prominent names like Defoe and Cromwell. It doesn't belie that under a mile away is an area in Brick Lane with grimy street art charm, teeming with hipsters and bespoke businessmen as vintage apparel stores, record stores, coffee houses, Indian restaurants and bagel shops battle for passing lunch break clientele. Duck into a side area in the reclaimed Truman Brewery complex and you'll find food trucks and kiosks luring clients with clever slogans like Meat Porn to adorn their advertising.

On nights the bars and restaurants of Shoreditch buzz with a mix of college students, young professionals and startuppers.

And only a little further up the road into Hackney you'll find a fascinating model of urban renewal in the Hackney City Farm where reclaimed items are put to use in making a fully functional farm with petting zoo, CSA, gardens, educational programs, and a well regarded store for fresh produce and animal products (city coop fresh eggs, anyone?).

Historically old with plenty of buildings to be reclaimed or knocked down to rebuild gleamingly new (aka the mid throes of gentrification); dense pockets of startup activity spaced out by housing across a range of social strata and ethnicities; abundance of young clientele and savvy business people; green and self-sustaining initiatives. That sounds a lot like good old Cambridge, MA to me.

Chad O’Connor is a communication consultant, teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in Organizational Communication and Culture at Northeastern University, and is editor of this blog. Connect with him on Twitter @chadoconnor.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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