03 December 2007

Kids in Cities Concept Paper

In this entry, I will attempt to summarize the Kids in Cities Concept Paper, which can be read in full here. PDF here.

First they establish the obvious, which is the value of more children in cities. They summarize that Parents and Children:
1. Add to the vibrancy and diversity
2. Are strong advocates for amenities
3. Strengthen the ecosystem of civic-minded citizens
4. Add to the tax base
5. Grow the future urban citizens.

Then they discuss how most cities have been losing families for the past 50 years and how many of them have become virtual kid-free zones. The project is about how to reverse this long-term trend.

Then they divide parents into the following subgroups:

The misleading part about this diagram is the equal size of the squares, because the suburban loyalists probably make up a great majority of all parents in the US. But it does serve the purpose to understand the potential targets, and the target of the paper, is how to attract the swing vote. I don't like the term Urban Pioneer, and think Urban Loyalist is a better description for the current city parents.

The urban loyalist values: diversity, density and vibrancy.
The swing vote values: space, safety and schools

Space, Safety and Schools must be addressed to attract the swing vote. An extensive study was made of existing urban loyalists, and a lot of attention was paid to their “pain points” and their “work-arounds”. Finally they propose ways to change these duct-tape solutions into opportunities.

Redefinition is one strategy. For example:
• Safety: Majority perceive the city as unsafe, however the density and diversity of people provide many eyes on the street, and children are kept safe by the many people they know in the neighborhood.
• Space: Apartments are expensive compared to half-acre lot in suburbs, however cities offer many adjacent spaces used to extend the home. The entire city is my backyard!
• Schools: City schools perform badly; however, the city offers many out-of –the-classroom learning experiences. The entire city is my classroom!

Some concepts leaders could start to implement:

Messaging: Safe routes can be established and marked, and businesses can be certified as child friendly.
Services: A simple pre-paid card could allow children a network of safe travel on public transit or even taxis. Child-only areas can be established near the driver of buses and trains.

Private Space
- flexible space apartments
- older generation can act as a network of providers that swing vote trusts
- time share model for shared spaces or shared sitters or nannies.

Public Space
- car free zones for safe play
- happy hour for families
- stroller lockers, family rest stops
- k-games, interactive kiosks with scavenger hunts, mazes, city history

- Website or school liaison should consolidate school information.
- Help children become involved in shaping their community. Families could network via web to search for learning and volunteer opportunities for children. In this effort children will learn real-life lessons.
- Cities have a concentration of experts in certain fields and each city has certain strengths that could be utilized. For example, architects run a program “architecture for kids” that utilized the buildings around them.

I guess I was surprised that the paper did not discuss the things you most commonly hear such as bike trails, parks, affordable housing, daycare, afterschool care, more neighborhood policing etc. I thought the first half was excellent as it reviewed the current strengths of city life vs the growing weakness of suburban life (alienation, less safety, car issues etc). The proposed concepts were a bit underwhelming. I agree with the ideas, but there was nothing revolutionary here. Maybe that is the point. Small adjustments could make life better for us while also signaling to swing voters that they are wanted.


catherine said...

There are a few recent trends in the revitalization of our city and our neighborhood specifically that I am finding particularly alienating to the famlies that are here or any that might want to move here. They are 1. Schools 2. Affordable housing 3. Parks and Recreation and 4. Retail and Services.
1. The school board is busy tearing down neighborhood schools and centralizing into huge k -12 magnet facilities. I think this is a mistake and short sighted as there seems to be a growing group of city dwelling families and many of the pop-up charter schools that have siphoned away students are starting to fail and may soon be closed.
2. There is a huge gulf in the housing market being created in this neighborhood and in the CBD. It is either super high-end condos with a max of 2 bedrooms or subsidized places through Model Management. There are fewer and fewer rental opportunities and finding something with a third bedroom is virtually impossible. I would also like to see more home-steading opportunities so people could choose less flash and more function.
3. The recreation commission's recent decison to close 25% of their pools is outrageous. This city's pool system is something to be proud of and a great asset to build upon and market to families; why have your own pool/club membership when the city has one for you right here? Instead they seem intent upon tearing it down. The recreation Commission has lost their will to swim.
4. and finally the businesses that the city and 3CDC are busy attracting are decidely un-family friendly. We are operating on one and half incomes and I feel I've been priced out of most places. Where have all the diners gone? How about a corner store with milk? How about a place where you can get a shower curtain liner? What happened to the idea of a Joseph-Beth downtown? I am growing weary of the galleries and glam and would like to just get a jar of glitter for our home-made snow globe.

CityKin said...

Well, they are proposing to close 17 of the current 41 pools, and 8 have already been closed over the past few years. So actually CRC is reducing the pools by more than 50%.

I don't understand retailing. I really don't know why all the department stores closed and people drive 60miles to shop in Wilmington, or why you can't buy something like a shower curtain downtown. It's mind boggling. Seems like the stores keep getting bigger and fewer, and now we are seeing some smaller stores start up. Stores like MetroNation are good for Christmas Gifts, but I really don't see me shopping there much. But I don't think I am their target audience either.