Making Communities Places Where People Want to Live

Mayors are revitalizing neighborhoods to attract new residents.
NANCY LEMOND, CHIEF ADVOCACY & ENGAGEMENT OFFICER, AARP | May 19, 2017

Editor’s Note: According to the Pew Center Research, most Americans have moved to a new community at least once in their lives. The most popular reason to move, noted by 44 percent of survey respondents, was for job or business opportunities. The people that have stayed where they were born said it is because their community is a good place to raise children.

It’s a question mayors have asked themselves for decades: How do I create a community that encourages residents of all ages to put down roots?

This question becomes even more relevant as technology evolves to allow people to communicate, work and attend school from anywhere. To remain competitive nationally – and even globally – mayors are looking at innovative ways to revitalize their cities to make them more livable for current and future residents.

One of Mayor Jim Bouley’s greatest accomplishments is rallying support for the revitalization of Concord, New Hampsire’s Main Street. Today, the downtown area is pedestrian friendly, featuring a two-lane – instead of four-lane -- street, widened sidewalks and cobblestone medians. Plans to add trees, planters, benches, streetlights and signage will make the area even more inviting. The goal is to bring the community together and support local businesses.

Las Vegas has long been a tourist destination, but Mayor Carolyn Goodman also wants to make it a great place to live. Her planned Symphony Park project is a 61-acre downtown development that will feature walkable blocks with street-level retail divided into four districts: the Civic District (for parks and performing arts), the Specialty District (for hotels and retail), the Residential District (for single and multi-family homes) and the Medical District (for hospitals and health clinics). The goal is to create a cross-generational place for people to live, work, shop and play.

In Wichita, Kansas, Mayor Carl Brewer partnered with AARP Kansas to create a safe, fun outdoor recreation space for older residents to take their grandchildren. The Grandparents Park – created from two city-owned empty lots – has playground equipment, paved walking trails and an exercise station geared toward people 50 years and older.

When residents live close to their jobs, stores and restaurants; can visit parks and spend more time outdoors; have access to transit options; and feel safe, it creates a more engaged population. A sustainable, vibrant community offers programs and opportunities that appeal to all generations, which makes it more likely to attract newcomers and retain current residents.

Read more success stories.