Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Another conference on keeping young people? Whatever

It's that time of year again. The time when civic leaders dump another sum of money into finding ways to stem the brain drain that Winnipeg suffers from. This year, it's the Chamber of Commerce's turn, and they're hosting a one-day conference at CanadInns Polo Park. Maybe we can all drive across the parking lot to the nearest chain restaurant afterward.


This week, an expert, Joseph Cortright was flown in to state the obvious:
"According to Cortright's research, by a two-to-one margin, people choose where they would like to live and then try to find work, rather than the opposite....
Another finding is that the "Creative Class" is increasing interested in living within three miles of a city's central business district.
Creating vibrant urban neighbourhoods is a major magnet for the types of young professionals who will stay permanently in a city and help its economy grow."

Or, as one Toronto resident wrote me in an email a few months ago:
"I would like to add that as an educated 27 year old professional who is considering relocating to Winnipeg, the lack of a rapid transit system is a serious concern for me. It is perhaps one of my biggest considerations.
Winnipeg will never achieve its natural potential if it does not build a reasonable rapid transit system of some kind, and Winnipeg has lots of potential. Not potential to become a Toronto or a Chicago with it's excessive rents and crowded everything, but a medium sized city with access to services, a healthy downtown and a reasonable cost of living.
In short, Winnipeg needs to better and more intelligently fill up and use its existing space and urban fabric and a rapid transit system will greatly aid in this.
This is a city with lots of character and culture capable of attracting both new investment and new people, but it will not do so until it starts acting its age. The time for a rapid transit system began at least 2 decades ago. It's time that Winnipeg caught up."

(For more, see a previous Rise and Sprawl post.)

You know what young people live in cities for? Dense, cool downtowns and nearby neighborhoods; unbridled sidewalk commerce; walkability; cosmopolitanism; good arts and music scenes; decent transit; streets that are designed for walking, and not drag racing. Much to the bewilderment of local politicians and professional cheerleaders, young people (at least the creative ones) don't stay for new suburbs, a sterilized downtown, impoverished ghettos, cheap parking, power centres, or hog plants.

Winnipeg could never keep all of its young people from moving to bigger, coastal cities. but actually listening to, and acting on, the words of the next keynote speaker who says that good urbanism is important, might alleviate the need for hosting these conferences year after year.


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