Keeping families in the city

27 11 2007

One of the major issues my family and I faced when we bought our home was people asking me, “But where will your kids go to school?”  My wife and I, who had grown up in first and second ring suburbs, bought our first house downtown.  We love our 100+ year old house, and we love our neighborhood.  One of the things that surprised us when the Young Master came along was the number of families with kids in our neighborhood.  Each of them also had to face the question of schools, play spaces, and safety.

We were fortunate enough to find a wonderful school near our home that provides a fantastic education.  Our neighborhood took the initiative and created a neighborhood park for our residents to enjoy.  Safety is always a concern, and we and the neighborhood do a good job of making sure that we watch out for each other.

But there are still concerns.  There is no general merchandise retailer in the readily-accessible area.  The closest grocery store is not of the highest quality, although they are doing better recently.  Too many vagrants and homeless prowl the sidewalks and alleys, and petty crime is a major headache.  Many of our neighborhood residents see that as the trade-off we make for living downtown.

A major focus of the recent mayoral campaign was the focus given to attracting new residents to the city.  The emphasis seemed to almost solely on young singles, attracted to the burgeoning nightlife and club/bar scene, and retirees/empty nesters who could afford the extravagant new condos being built. None of these efforts seemed directed toward attracting families with children.

Perhaps that emphasis has been misguided.  A recent article in Wall Street Journal argues that a successful city is built on families, and programs that will attract those families are essential to building or rebuilding our city cores.  Focusing on housing prices and affordability, as well as improving schools and recreation opportunities, tend to draw those families from the suburbs back to city centers.  This is a lesson that our new mayor should closely heed.

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