What millennials want–and why Spokane should cater to them

Walkability can help make or break a city as a vital, energetic, and vibrant place to live, according to the millennials that Spokane needs to attract. So why do we keep investing in policies created by Baby Boomers? (PHOTO: BethesdaNow.com)

We’re always saying that in order to succeed, Spokane needs to take time and energy to attract a key demographic: young, urban professionals. But what does it take to do that?

Millennials are markedly different from their parents in a number of ways, from dress to music to cultural attitudes. But perhaps most tellingly, millennials desire different things from their homes. Where the Baby Boomers originally valued safe, affordable homes in the suburbs, research reveals that more and more millennials wish to live in the type of mixed-use communities that Spokane needs to succeed. According to new data reported by The Atlantic CityLab, these young people are primarily concerned with four issues: walkability, good schools and parks, excellent public transportation, and new technology.

Sound familiar? We’ve been advocating these causes for months.

Unfortunately, it seems that Spokane currently caters more toward Baby Boomers than to Millennials. Our development policies favor large, suburban tracts on the urban fringe, as opposed to live-work communities like Kendall Yards. Public transportation and bicyclists constantly deal with the scorn of those who believe more money should be spent on roads. And while our schools continue to improve, they are not making the type of calculated investments needed to take area education to the next level.

So let’s invest. Let’s build a streetcar, a trolley, a light rail. Let’s improve our bike lanes, our crosswalks, our pedestrian trails. Let’s incentivize infill, and work with developers to craft creative plans for increasing density. Let’s make sure our schools have the proper tools to teach, from smaller class sizes to new curricula and learning methodologies. Let’s bring entrepreneurship and innovation to the high schools, the middle schools, and even the elementary schools, encouraging students and fostering a culture of creativity. Let’s improve Riverfront Park, adding new features for accessibility and new community gathering places under the Pavilion. Let’s create a city-wide fiber-to-the-home initiative, bolstered by the local business community. These investments have tangible returns and have proven to show real-world results. With them, we could become the number one city in the country for millennials. Seriously. Let’s take some time to make this happen.

Investment first. Then returns. That should be the strategy moving forward.

What do you think? What could the Spokane area be doing to attract more millennials? How do you think our policies line up with the perspectives of millennials? How could we become the #1 city in America for millennials? Share your thoughts on Facebook, on Twitter, in the comments below, or in person. We love to hear from you.

What the Google Fiber expansion means for Spokane

Google is expanding its fiber-optic business to as many as thirty new cities in nine metropolitan areas as it readies a nationwide push for faster data speeds. (PHOTO: Google)

We wrote a couple weeks ago that building an expansive fiber-optic network should be one of City Hall’s top priorities. With the recent announcement that Google Fiber is expanding to new cities, we have a clearer picture of how Spokane might be able to get in on the action. Most importantly, Google describes its planning process for Fiber as one with two parts. First, cities complete what the company calls a “fiber-ready” checklist. Then a detailed city study begins. Spokane can get a head start on other cities that will inevitably be competing for fiber in the future by completing a checklist now.

 

Spokane can procure the necessary maps of existing utility poles, gas, power, and water lines. It can provide a clearer picture of the existing fiber services and dark fiber that are lying dormant underneath the city. It can streamline the permitting and approvals process for fiber-optic lines regardless of whether or not Google comes knocking sometime down the road. These moves would be beneficial for any potential actor to get in on the fiber action. It doesn’t have to be Google. In fact, numerous companies operate fiber optic networks within the city already, albeit on a primarily commercial customer basis. By making this information more readily available and making it easier to get a permit for work on internet infrastructure, Spokane could jumpstart a potential fiber expansion.

What are your thoughts? Can the dark fiber be lit? Would Spokane be better served by a municipal internet utility that works like its existing water and garbage services? What’s next for Spokane? Share your comments below, on Twitter, on Facebook, and around the web. We love to hear from you.