Investing in the Urban Experience: Downtown Living for Families

Just this past week I attended the 2012 State of Downtown Economic Forum, which was presented in part by the Downtown Seattle Association. The focus of the discussion was about “Investing in the Urban Experience,” and how the City of Seattle is working to make its downtown neighborhood more attractive and vibrant in addition to being a central part of a sustainable economy. As outlined in the 2012 State of Downtown Economic Report, Downtown Seattle’s residential population has grown 77 percent since 1990, compared to 19 percent citywide.  Downtown is home to nearly 10 percent (60,000 residents) of Seattle’s population, and as a result the residential density is nearly twice that of the citywide average.  In addition, Downtown Seattle has experienced more residential growth since 1990 than other cities such as Boston, Denver, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Portland, San Diego and even San Francisco.

Downtown’s growth in residential population is largely due to a variety of housing choices, amenities and attractions which make the neighborhood a desirable option for residents.  32 percent of Downtown Seattle’s residents are between the ages of 25 and 34, and families currently make up approximately 17 percent of Downtown households.  There are more than 3,200 children under the age of 18 who live downtown.  However, research has shown that once children reach the age of 5, families will often move out of Downtown in search of a neighborhood that fosters a more family-friendly environment.  This finding was troublesome to the Downtown Seattle Association, who challenged the Forum attendees to think about ways in which Downtown can retain families with children of all ages.

Most families surveyed said that they chose to relocate from Downtown due to the lack of quality schools in the Downtown core as well as the lack of safe public parks, playgrounds and amenities suitable for young children.  Residents with children are not the only ones who would benefit from public schools and child-friendly downtown parks; working parents who commute to Downtown, as well as visitors and tourists, would also benefit.  Consequently, Downtown retail and commercial businesses would benefit from not only retaining young families with children, but also from other parents and visitors who will spend more time downtown because the neighborhood has playground amenities for children.  Basically, if you can make a neighborhood safe, attractive and engaging for a child, it will be attractive for the parents who will want to spend more time living, working, and playing with their families in those neighborhoods.

To read more about the Economic Report, visit: http://downtownseattle.com/

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