SEATTLE -- Matthew Brown walks. He walks to work from his downtown apartment. He walks to get food and to be entertained. He doesn't own a car. Why would he?
"I like living where there are buildings and things to do, restaurants and shops," he said as the din of passing traffic poured through his open window. "I kind of like the busyness of the city."
Brown, a graphic designer, has designed himself a life of vibrant convenience, a couple of city blocks from the tech and media firm where he works.
If the 29-year-old had planned it, he could hardly be a better illustration for urbanist and futurist Richard Florida -- who believes that a "creative class" of Matthew Browns will drive the next U.S. economy, pumping up immense urban areas with new life.
Other futurists think that Brown's situation may be more of an exception, as city centers limit themselves with pricey obsolescence while their outer fringes develop into desirable enclaves of self-contained life and work. Joel Kotkin believes, moreover, that the young Matthew Browns are destined to follow previous generations away from the bustle when life makes other demands.
Most Americans already live in some fledgling version of Kotkin's country or Florida's country. As each slow day of economic recovery stokes the future, either Florida's or Kotkin's vision could rise with it. In the gray field of economics, the two camps offer an almost black-and-white clash. Florida believes that cities will grow and meld, mostly along the East and West coasts, as their residents dial back on consumption. Kotkin sees the generations-long ascent of suburbs continuing, with the most-frenzied expansions around smaller cities in the country's midsection.