Our provincial government’s strategy is to massively expand road capacity to the exurbs (to the eastern valley with Port Mann and Highway 1, south of the Fraser with Massey and Highway 99, even the Sunshine Coast and the proposed hard connector) while being indifferent, at best, to transit for the metro area. Corporate America has made a different calculation.


In June, McDonald’s joined a long list of companies that are returning to downtown Chicago from suburbs like Oak Brook, Northfield and Schaumburg. …

GELater this month, the top executive team at General Electric — whose 70-acre wooded campus in Fairfield, Conn., has embodied the quintessential suburban corporate office park since it opened in 1974 — will move to downtown Boston. ..

But even as they establish new urban beachheads, business giants like G.E. are also changing the nature of their headquarters, staffing them with a few top white-collar employees and a smattering of digital talent, rather than recreating the endless Dilbert-like pods they once built in the ’burbs.

GE Boston

New GE HQ in Boston’s Seaport District

“Part of it is that cities are more attractive places to live than they were 30 years ago and are more willing to provide tax incentives, and young people want to be there,” said David J. Collis, who teaches corporate strategy at Harvard Business School.

“But the trend also represents the deconstruction and disaggregation of the traditional corporate headquarters,” he explained. “The executive suite might be downtown, but you could have the back office and administrative functions in Colorado, the finance guys in Switzerland and the tax team in the U.K.” …

“We are going through a change in our work force, and we wanted to be where we could attract millennials,” Mr. Vergnano said. “This is a group that likes to be in an urban setting, with access to public transportation. They don’t want to be confined to a building with a cafeteria or be next door to a shopping center.” …

Along with eliminating the parking lot (workers are being encouraged to use public transit) G.E. wanted to do away with security gates and the sense of isolation that characterizes many corporate campuses. …

“The period of companies moving to suburbs and edge cities has ebbed, but I had thought that start-ups would continue to locate in so-called nerdistans, like office parks,” he said. But a recent study by Mr. Florida showed more than half of new venture capital flowing into urban neighborhoods, with two San Francisco ZIP codes garnering more than $1 billion each, he said.

The return of a top echelon of executives to American cities reflects — and may well reinforce — disparities driven by widening inequality, underscoring how jobs are disappearing in other locales.

Over all, there has been a slight pickup in employment and population in the central core of big cities, said Joel Kotkin, an author and urban geographer at Chapman University in California. But many close-in suburbs and neighborhoods are withering, particularly in the Northeast. More distant suburbs and exurbs are still thriving, especially in the Sun Belt.

“The elite functions are going downtown,” Mr. Kotkin said. “But at the same time, middle-management jobs are moving to the suburbs in places like Dallas, if they’re not leaving the country entirely.”