We talk quite a bit about trying to improve the quality of life for citizens in our community. Just as the term “economic development” elicits a myriad of opinions and theories, the term “quality of life” is equally distributed. For the sake of discussion, I wanted to give readers an idea of what the Port Authority sees as local quality of life markers.
- Mixed Use Neighborhoods
- Bars and Coffee Shops
- Walking Paths/Interior Bike Paths
- Local Economies (diverse in product and scale)
- Presence of outsiders/passers by
- Public Space Utilization/meeting spaces
- Quality in structure and environmental presence
What are mixed use neighborhoods? Think downtown Marietta. Residential/Commercial/Retail all located in a singular area.
Bars and Coffeeshops…………..simply put, there may never be enough. Watering holes have been the gathering spaces for every civilization. I understand the concept of having more bars in our city gives immediate pause to those who favor the Temperance Movement. Bar culture has become far more than many in these parts realize. A bar has become loose name for a video game emporium (that will serve you a can of beer), a board game collective (that will serve you a can of beer), an art gallery and painting class (that will serve you a glass of wine). Much of the collective experience of people in cities and towns across the world has simply been brought under roof (where you can get a beer). It’s shifted from a place to sit and drink, to a place to play a game and have a drink. BTW, you won’t believe this concept that has been floating around lately……….
Walking paths and interior bike paths pretty straight forward. If you plan for cars, you get cars. If you plan for people or even bikes you get that. I make the distinction however by saying interior bike paths. There is a difference between the bike paths that would seek to rip up rail between towns and turn it into dedicated bike path (which in my experience is a colossal disaster for transportation both commercial and public). What we are seeking are places in you own area where you can bike to and from. Intermodal transportation is a necessity for the next generation and providing safe places to bike, bird (look it up), or walk will be key in revitalizing our cities and towns.
Presence of outsiders……………while many of you are content to keep the stranger/danger attitude alive and well, I can tell you that if we want our community to survive we need to embrace the outsiders. Shrinking populations require new talent attraction and that means people you don’t recognize. I am not talking simply immigrants (which by the way are markers of growing economies around the world), but anyone who seems to like our community and wants to come here and be a part of it. From California to Egypt. Small town feel has an allure, but it also has a major detractor, insulated attitudes and shunning of outsiders. We cannot afford to close ourselves off from the outside world. We may as well shut it all down if we do. There will be nothing left to save.
Public space utilization. This is pretty straight forward. Where does our community come together? We saw it on the riverbank for Sternwheeler, at the Civitan Park in Belpre for Homecoming, on Front Street for first Friday. Maximizing those spaces for continued use by the community for said events is a necessary action to ensure citizens enjoy living in your town. We have to provide events and leisure pastimes for citizens to take in to keep their belief in what a great community we have. Protection of public spaces and making the ones we have more appealing and highly utilized (looking at you Riverfront Park in Marietta).
Quality in space and environment means we preserve the environment where we have it in ample supply and build to accentuate its presence. Utilization of the trees, landscape, natural light, makes every structure you build more appealing and in turn elevates livability and property value. There are many great architects who are classically trained to do just this. Throwing up pole buildings and cutting down a few trees to allow for greater visibility is rarely a sound plan. Seek experts to help you maximize your investment decisions.
It is my hope that as conversations progress in the coming years surrounding improving quality of life for citizens of our communities, we can all speak the same language. I hope blog posts like this help.