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Feeling Lonely in a Midwestern Downtown

10:53 AM CDT on July 24, 2013

Young people are moving back to the downtown areas of many Midwestern and Southern cities. Sometimes they call these folks pioneers, though that's a fraught term. But a lot of them do have to rough it, so to speak -- living without grocery stores or other basic amenities that you'd have in New York or Boston.

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Rhianna Weilert at Network blog the Pedestrian Path makes her home in downtown Kansas City. She says that at times, the big missing piece is... other people. She offers this poignant comment on American public spaces:

The odd part of living in downtown Kansas City is that sometimes I feel like I'm the only one here. It's disappointing because I love people watching.

Nevertheless here are some of my favorite spots to sit and wonder ... where are the playing children, the dogs, the couple leisurely kissing, the runners, the lost tourists, the picnic blankets, and the downtowners.

The park at 18 Broadway (pictured), though lovely, is oddly deserted, she says:

Sometimes I wonder if people think this park is private property. There are some cool infographics explaining the garden’s purpose as well as some kick-ass urban views to the south. It should also be noted that this is a potential site for the future UMKC downtown arts campus and, from their perspective, the property is underutilized given its excellent location. So if we want it to stay, we should populate it with people.

Psst, want to know where everyone went? My guess is they're watching television on the couch in half acre lots in the suburbs -- the American dream! Public space? Interactions with strangers? It's not clear how that fit into most people's aspirations in the post-WWII decades, if at all. So it's up to young people like Weilert who want something different to search for it in the places left behind. A sense of loss for our cities -- that might be a new, unifying value for younger Americans in flyover country.

Elsewhere on the Network today: The Bicycle Safety Institute wonders whether it's necessary to require cyclists to come to a complete stop at stop signs. James Bikes Green relates a sadly typical case of leniency and injustice involving a reckless driver. And Better Institutions describes yet another example of the double standard that benefits highway projects, not transit projects.

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