WASHINGTON – Giving into what the young and restless want is essential to the long-term success of Cincinnati's downtown and suburbs,says the state director of Greater Ohio.
And what is that?
Walkable,dense communities with brick buildings,trendy restaurants and no box stores,said Gene Krebs,who has been Greater Ohio's state director since 2004.
Greater Ohio is a Columbus-based organization dedicated to better land use in the state. It promotes “smart growth” policies focused on accommodating population shifts while maintaining a good quality of life.
Krebs spoke at the National Building Museum on Monday about Ohio's progress since it began advancing smart growth issues three years ago. He said Ohio is in “a dim state” as far as intelligent land use goes,but Cincinnati is beginning realize what it takes to design and build successful communities.
“People in Cincinnati have got to start thinking of themselves as living in a ‘commute shed' and that their fortunes and the fortunes of their region rise and fall on the commute shed,” Krebs said. A commute shed is the area surrounding a city that includes everyone who travels to the city. “They need to look at some of their out-of-date government planning and say,‘This was good for the age of the horse,but is it really that good for the age of the computer chip?'”
Krebs,who was a state representative from Ohio's 60th District from 1993 to 2000,owns a farm in Oxford.
Developers also need to focus on the younger population if they're planning to build successful suburban communities,said Krebs. The only way suburbs are going to age well is if developers switch business models and ask young professionals what they want in a community.
Cincinnati's commute shed now encompasses parts of three states and has been growing rapidly as people move farther from the city center.
But what's going to happen when the next generation begins to settle down?
“The children of the suburbs have rejected the suburbs,” Krebs said. “They find the suburbs repellant and instead want walkable communities that have nice restaurants and soccer fields that are close by.”
Young people are essential for developing Over-the-Rhine,Krebs said. He said Over-the-Rhine is key to revitalizing Cincinnati's downtown. The city had a population of 364,000 in 1990 and an estimated population of 332,252 in 2006,according to census figures.
However,the area will prosper only if people's attitudes change and developers focus on creating an atmosphere that entices young people,Krebs said.
Cincinnati legislators have been responsive in recognizing the need for smart growth initiatives,but people need to understand what it means and how to make it work,he said.
He used the example of Andy Griffith's Mayberry to illustrate his point.
“How do they get around in Mayberry? Walking,” Krebs said. “Have you ever tried walking to Wal-Mart? It makes your palms sweat and your feet hurt just thinking about it.”
Young people want Mayberry,Krebs said. They want to walk – just maybe not to Wal-Mart.
The Environmental Protection Agency and the Smart Growth Network joined the museum to sponsor Krebs' speech.