30 January 2008

Cities Compete for Families

An article in a New Jersey newspaper touches on some familiar issues:

Public parks can substitute for a lack of backyards and cultural offerings can enrich children's educations, says the report by the Institute of Design in Chicago. It recommends happy hours for families in local restaurants, family rest stops that include stroller lockers, car-free zones and child-only areas on public transportation.

"Cities face a challenge keeping families with financial options," says Carol Coletta, president and chief executive of CEOs for Cities. "There's this broad belief that if you raise children in the city you're, in fact, a bad and selfish parent. It's actually an enriching experience."
Akron, Ohio -- The city promotes New Year's Eve family celebrations and downtown activities for adults and children, including a skating rink and artisan fair. It also now jointly owns community learning centers with the school district and has extended after-school programs in 42 schools being built or rehabilitated.
"We've got the young people. We've got the empty nesters. Let's keep the people in the middle."

To that end, Philadelphia is improving parks and street lighting. Levy's group surveyed parents of preschoolers and found that most wouldn't send their kids to public schools unless they moved out of the city. He says it's because they were not aware of choices nearby.

To reverse that, the group created a Web site with complete school information. It distributed postcards to civic groups, pediatrician offices and playgrounds trumpeting, "The region's best classroom is right in your backyard. In fact, it is your backyard." Diversity a draw.

Diversity is a draw for many who choose to raise children in the city.

Joel Kotkin as usual, is a wet blanket:
Joel Kotkin, author of "The City: A Global History," is skeptical that cities can compete with suburbs for middle-class families. "What people will tolerate as single people is different from what they'll tolerate when they have children," he says.

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