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Family Friendly vs. Cool Cities

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Interesting article on opinionjournal.com that compares and contrasts the whole "cool cities" initiative against family-friendly cities. (Has this been posted yet?)

Best line:

"Advocates of the brew-latt

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There have been a number of critics of Richard Florida's Rise of the Creative Class theories (on which the whole Cool Cities program in Michigan is based), including me. In fact, Opinion Journal had a similar article back in 2004. I think it takes a balance. You can't neglect the core of the city and expect the metro area to grow (at least not in the Midwest). But also if you create an environment that alienates or turns off families, in the pursuit of "eccentricity", you will begin to lose people.

But I have to disagree with the writer that the cities he mentions that are high-growth is due to them being "family-friendly", I think it has a lot more to do with people following jobs, which have been growing in those areas because of very low cost of doing business (cheap labor, cheap land, low taxes, minimal government services, etc.). And the growth on the periphery has more to do with quality of schools more than anything else, especially in the education weak South.

It's the same thing going on in Grand Rapids. I believe the majority of the transfers coming here have family in tow, and are going to tend to move into suburban areas. I think the biggest beneficiaries of the 2000+ jobs being created on Health Hill won't be downtown condo developers, but East Grand Rapids and Forest Hills developers and Realtors. Yes, there may be some that will choose downtown or near downtown living, but the great majority won't IMO. Which is another reason why suburban developments don't need tax incentives. :)

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Frankly I find the link between

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Let me ask a basic question..Does the downtown core of a city need families? Sure, it looks good on paper, but really, who cares? What I want in downtown GR is sidewalks filled with people. Some of these people may work there, some may be shopping (I hope!), and some may live there. I could care less if the people who live there are young people, college students, traditional families or polygamists. If downtown GR was lively and vital during all hours of the day (which is currently is not), does it really matter who is responsible for the vitality?

I fear that if we try to make downtown the perfect place for everyone, it will become the perfect place for no one.

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As someone who has owned a place for nearly six years at the 'brew-latt'e' ground zero district of Portland, I can indisputably tell you that Mr. Kotkin is full of crap.

While his academic credentals and research may indicate 'family friendly' and 'cool' are mutually exclusive, I would invite Kotkin to drop by Jamison Park in the heart of the Pearl district any day the temperature is above 70 degrees to watch flocks/gaggles/herds of toddlers splashing about the kid-friendly waterfall pond at the park. I would also suggest Mr. Kotkin speak to City Comissioner Erik Sten, who is working with Portland Public Schools to open a grade school in that neighborhood, as well as develop a city park with sports fields on property valued greater than the whole of Chapman University.

I would also submit that the failure (if at this point it could be considered a failure) of the 'Cool Cities' initiative has little to do with parents not wishing to offer thier children an alternative to suburban living with fast food dining and retail malls (as opposed to an urban experience, both the good and the bad) but rather a simple economic decision. News flash professor, yeah it's harder and more expensive to live in the city, perhaps that why not everyone lives there, but for those that do, and for those who feel raising thier children in a diverse environment to prepare them for adulthood where being able to get along with folks who are different than you is considered an asset, it's a reasonable price to pay.

Sorry for going off here folks, but I hates it when someone pontificates on a subject with little real world investigation of the subject and that's exactly what Mr. Kotkin has presented.

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Let me ask a basic question..Does the downtown core of a city need families? Sure, it looks good on paper, but really, who cares? What I want in downtown GR is sidewalks filled with people. Some of these people may work there, some may be shopping (I hope!), and some may live there. I could care less if the people who live there are young people, college students, traditional families or polygamists. If downtown GR was lively and vital during all hours of the day (which is currently is not), does it really matter who is responsible for the vitality?

I fear that if we try to make downtown the perfect place for everyone, it will become the perfect place for no one.

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I'd just point out that one sure way to ensure that something isn't cool is to have the government actively try to make it cool. Every time I see a "Cool Cities" sign posted along a street, I reflexively roll my eyes. What a waste of effort. BangHead.gif

"Cool" places don't happen because the government plans or wills them into existence. Cool places and things are more likely to develop when the government is limited, taxation is light, investment is high and people are making money that they can then invest on their own. Jennifer Granholm is about as capable of creating a cool city through executive intervention as Lawrence Welk is capable of doing so from beyond the grave.

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I'm not sure why anyone would criticize Michigan's Cool Cities program which has a long-term focus in mind. It is not attempting to create cool cities, it is recognizing the areas that are achieving positive living experiences. The program is a proactive attempt to market areas to the type of people who will improve our economy for years to come.

I wonder if any critics of the program have asked the Roosevelt Park Neighborhood Association or the West Grand Neighborhood Organization how the awards have affected them.

The Cool Cities program does not require that residents having children move out of the neighborhood. I agree with the comments above that mention economic reasons as considerations for where a family lives. Sure, school choices are important, but financial resources or personal commitment change its importance. I am familiar with several young families who have moved downtown from out of state in the last two years. These families acknowledge that schools downtown score differently, so these parents are committed to being more involved or have made alternate school choices - both options which allow them to live in a downtown neighborhood. These families have the resources to live in any suburb of Grand Rapids. Frankly, school issues are part of an urban living experience.

For anyone who believes a population hub can survive in any meaningful urban way without strong downtown neighborhoods only need to look to Detroit for an example. Kudos to Granholm for attempting to support and market the strengths of our state. I think the people who choose to live in and support areas awarded as "Cool Cities" understand what she is accomplishing.

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Also, I know people love to beat up on Granholm, and I'm not defending her, but if you look at the total Cool Cities program, they have doled out a total of just under $4.5 Million in the first three years:

http://64.233.167.104/search?q=cache:_TcAY...;cd=3&gl=us

Whereas MEDC has handed out $Hundreds of Millions in tax credits and grants (probably this year alone) to help foster job growth around the state. So for the OJ writer to make the cause/effect relationship that "Michigan is focusing on cool cities = they are failing miserably and losing jobs" is facetious at best. But OpinionJournal is notoriously far right wing, so of course they are going to take pot shots at a Democratic governor and a "liberal" program. And the piece is just opinion, not a study, and it is backed up by opinions from a Realtor in Charlotte and a single Commissioner in Philadelphia.

The issues in Michigan are too complex to pin them on one program being used by the state. I also looked at the Cool Cities recipients, and I didn't see any coffee shops on there.

With that being said, I'd love it if Grand Rapids adopted more amenities that are "family-friendly", especially downtown. :thumbsup:

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I don't think that cool cities are a bad thing, but I think that focusing too much on them or building your entire initiative around them, is a bad thing. Just like focusing too much on manufacturing turned out to be a bad deal or focusing all your growth on medical or loft style condos could potentially turn into a bad deal.

It is about diversity. You can not have a vibrant city without it, at all levels. And as mentioned earlier you can not have a meaningful hub of population (or a sustainable population) without healthy urban cores. These healthy urban cores need all types of people, not just the young and hip, who may eventually be neither - and therefore building your systems around that is destined for failure.

Young and hip people are a component, but so are DINKS, families, empty nesters, etc...

The cool cities initiative has been a good thing and Granholm, for whatever her other faults have been, has been a champion of our urban neighborhoods and cities.

"Jennifer Granholm is about as capable of creating a cool city through executive intervention as Lawrence Welk is capable of doing so from beyond the grave"

And while this may be partially true, I can say without a doubt in my mind that things will not turn around without a substantial shift in the way government intervenes in these issues. The government will need to start to have more intervention in order to turn around the way that we live and work and how we are connected, or we will be in for a crapstorm.

I can also say that without a doubt that Dick would have done absolutely nothing in this realm. Except maybe to cut taxes and pray.

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I think what is interesting about the perspective that seems to be fleshing out on this thread is the focus on government action driving the cart. While certainly a major player in instituting the kind of urbanism that "Cool Cities" respresent, they are only a part of it. The role of neighborhood associations, retail businesses, the arts community, the hospitality industry, educational instiutions, an active vigilant media, law enforcement, business and human resource people, housing advocates, and so, so many others are vital parts (perhaps more so) than leaving it up to elected (and often not held accountable by the public) officials.

Just a quick example, there's a small pizza parlor near the Pearl that had a nasty habit of leaving filthy dumpsters on a heavily traveled sidewalk. It wasn't the Governor that got it taken care of, folks got tired of it, a small neighborhood weekly newspaper picked up on it, the business district association got heat for it (and subseqently applied thier own pressure), customers complained, people charged with enforcing codes were called to task and eventually the problem was taken care of. No grand gestures by the government, just folks taking the initutive to be responsible for what kind of behavior and environment they were willing to accept.

The state goverment in Oregon had very little to do with the success of the urbanism in Portland, it was 90% grass roots. In my mind that's why I have such great hope for the Grand Rapids area as evidenced by this very website and all the activities and thoughtful discussion the folks here are involved in.

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What in the Sam Hill is everyone talking about? The article and some of the posts seem to think that there is concrete definitions to "family friendly" and "cool city" but I have no idea what either term actually means. It seems to me that some people (I accuse no one here of this and I am not attacking anyone) differ in their definitions and use the vagueness to try and attack others a la the Kotkin article. He talks more about the attack on the family (which I assume means conservative family, "family values" is another term that for the life of me I cannot define), than he does talking about economic development. If everyone could agree on what types of programs or what types of incentives actually fell into what group, than it would be a little better. I personally believe that family friendly and cool city can cohabitate.

The problem with the Cool Cities initiative at its current state is that it took some of the worst cities in the State as far as economic growth is concerned and labeled them with the moniker of "cool city". Therefore, it is impossible to compare cities like Detroit and Benton Harbor with say a Raleigh Durham or a Houston. It will take a vast quantity of time before Cool City money does anything recognizable for these towns. Plus, the principles set forth by cool cities do not exclude family friendly: 1. Support innovation; 2. Grow our talent; 3. Embrace diversity; 4. Invest in and build on quality of place; 5. Think regionally and act locally; 6. Making new connections.

With regards to attracting young single professionals, most high tech/professional jobs are those that create strong linkages, meaning that it is better for those types off jobs to concentrate in a few locations. Those locations that already have built up some high tech/professional economic development are going to attract more and more as firms move there to take advantage of this concentration. Therefore, cities that do not have this build up, like some in Michigan, are at a disadvantage already.

The reason why I feel that it is necessary to recruit young people to move to the city is that the young people will eventually begin a family and are a lot less likely to move outside of the region after they have been in the city for a few years. Sure some might move out to the suburbs but some might stay and if they do move to the suburbs, their job might be in the city which will help other economic development out as well. The inner city cannot survive as a regional hub if the area outside of the city is not healthy and neither can the suburban areas survive without a strong city center. I just think that it is not as simplistic as recruiting the creative class or focusing on family friendly developments, they both build on each other.

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...The problem with the Cool Cities initiative at its current state is that it took some of the worst cities in the State as far as economic growth is concerned and labeled them with the moniker of "cool city". ...

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Also, I know people love to beat up on Granholm, and I'm not defending her, but if you look at the total Cool Cities program, they have doled out a total of just under $4.5 Million in the first three years:

http://64.233.167.104/search?q=cache:_TcAY...;cd=3&gl=us

Whereas MEDC has handed out $Hundreds of Millions in tax credits and grants (probably this year alone) to help foster job growth around the state. So for the OJ writer to make the cause/effect relationship that "Michigan is focusing on cool cities = they are failing miserably and losing jobs" is facetious at best. But OpinionJournal is notoriously far right wing, so of course they are going to take pot shots at a Democratic governor and a "liberal" program. And the piece is just opinion, not a study, and it is backed up by opinions from a Realtor in Charlotte and a single Commissioner in Philadelphia.

The issues in Michigan are too complex to pin them on one program being used by the state. I also looked at the Cool Cities recipients, and I didn't see any coffee shops on there.

With that being said, I'd love it if Grand Rapids adopted more amenities that are "family-friendly", especially downtown. :thumbsup:

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