Cities Want Young Families to Play and Stay
New Features Include Parks, Playgrounds and Beer GardensPublished: Wednesday, August 6, 2014 By: Anne Marie Chaker
About a decade ago, the so-called creative class of 20somethings fueled the revival of urban centers by settling in downtown areas mixing condos and coffee shops. Now, as millennials and other urbanites have children, their needs are changing. Cities want to hold on to them by becoming more "playable," for both children and adults.
Oklahoma City is remapping the city in its $1 billion bid to engage families. It is replacing a 4.5-mile stretch of highway that once awkwardly divided the downtown with a pedestrian- and bike-friendly "boulevard," which will accommodate four lanes of motor-vehicle traffic. The project also incorporates a new 70-acre park with a great lawn, a lake and a 380-foot long pedestrian overpass that connects the north end to the south portion of the park.
The city's 17-acre Myriad Botanical Gardens got a makeover, too, with the addition of a high-tech sound-and-light splash fountain for children. There also are a children's garden with arts-and-crafts programs, a stage for plays and concerts, a dog park and a skating rink. The project, parts of which are still under construction, will be finished entirely by 2021, the mayor's office estimates.
Mayor Mick Cornett says the plan "will increase our chances of holding on to the millennials when they're into their 30s," says Mr. Cornett. Real-estate demand downtown has already increased, he says, and a new elementary school is opening this month near the new park.