Greg Lindsay's Blog

December 11, 2021  |  permalink

Dark City in Axios, Slate, and the Boston Globe

This past summer, my friend Lev Kushner and I began ruminating “dark stores” — the local micro-warehouses deployed by 15-minute delivery startups such as Gopuff, Gorillas, and JOKR. What happens to cities if and when those companies plow billions of dollars of venture capital into leasing storefronts? Those conversations became our Bloomberg CityLab story, “The Dark Side of 15-Minute Delivery,” which coincidentally dropped the day after DoorDash announced it was getting into the instant delivery game as well.

We couldn’t have timed it better. Formerly flying just below the radar, 15-minute delivery is now on everyone’s screens. Axios’ Erica Pandey covered our story with the site’s characteristic “smart brevity:”

Why it matters: Our addiction to super-fast delivery — intensified by the pandemic — is clogging our cities, creating more low-paying jobs, and shuttering mom-and-pop stores on Main Street.

Pandey kindly invited me on Axios’ Re:Cap podcast to discuss our story as well. (Listen below.)

Elsewhere, Slate’s Money podcast used our story as a jumping-off point to cover 15-minute delivery, while sites such as Yahoo News, Planetizen, and others ran with coverage as well.

But I was most excited to speak with Boston Globe reporter Janelle Nanos, who gave me the last word in her front-page story on dark stores’ arrival in Boston:

And that’s why it’s so important to pay attention now, Lindsay said, to create clear rules and not let what very well may be a short-term fad inflict long-term damage on cities that are already struggling to recover from the pandemic.

“They’re going to do this and do irreparable harm to cities,” he said. “And then they may very well likely flame out.”

What I found so heartening about speaking with Nanos and Pandey is that the wait-and-see attitude once taken toward ride-hailing — maybe it’s bad but this Uber ride cost $3 and arrived in one-minute, so… — has been replaced by instant skepticism. Hopefully cities won’t make the same mistakes again.

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Greg Lindsay is a generalist, urbanist, futurist, and speaker. He is the chief communications officer at Climate Alpha, the senior fellow for applied research and foresight at NewCities, a senior fellow of MIT’s Future Urban Collectives Lab, and a non-resident senior fellow of The Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Strategy Initiative.

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