As much as we love downtowns and champion their revitalization, one of the hard realities is that our town and city centers often go through cycles of boom and bust. Once glamorous Main Streets become passé, fall into disrepair, are neglected, or wedged apart through poor planning and design, only to once again be transformed into the latest hot spot. New York City, downtown New Haven and Main Street, Middletown are all prime examples of places that were prosperous, faltered, but are once again blossoming.
Part of these revivals is due to “pioneers” – those willing to be among the first in a neighborhood still in transition. As a generalization, it used to be the young fringe that comprised this group, students and artists who for cost or cultural reasons congregated in these less than perfect areas. They, of course, made the places cool so that everyone else wanted to be there, eventually raising the whole neighborhood up.
This remains true today, and most of us have heard time and again that it is the young Millennial generation who is leading the charge for mixed-use city centers. Not wanting to drive, they are seeking walkable places with a variety of transit options, close to their jobs and with an assortment of interesting activities. However, like many of you, we’ve been hearing more and more over the last year or so about how older Baby Boomers are also embracing the role of pioneer, leaving their suburban homesteads for the vitality and interest of downtown. Together these Baby Boomers and young Millennials increasingly share a common goal of creating more walkable, livable communities that embrace housing, shopping, entertainment, business and public transit choices.
These qualities mirror those long espoused by Connecticut Main Street Center. Key to a healthy downtown, they encourage social interaction, economic vigor, a sense of community and environmental stewardship. That’s why we’re growing how we connect with these groups, partnering with the likes of Young Energetic Solutions (YES) and the Legislative Commission on Aging’s Livable Communities initiative. We’re gathering data, sharing stories and learning from each other about how best to achieve our goals. To that end, in addition to supporting the YES events mentioned above, I encourage you to check out the Commission’s annual report, which offers compelling information on why it’s so critical to begin planning for Connecticut’s aging population. An entry by our Communications Manager, Christine Schilke, on how Millennials and Baby Boomers both want diverse, walkable neighborhoods will also soon appear on the Commission’s blog.
Both of these groups represent the future of Connecticut’s downtowns – one is the population we’ll have, the other is the population we’ll seek. How lucky for us they want the same things! CMSC is proud to work alongside them, and with the many others who believe our downtowns’ best days lay ahead, and that we can be the pioneers who shape them.