Got Nightlife? Manage Sociability as an Economic Engine

By Peters, Jim; Lakomski, Alicia | Public Management, November 2010 | Go to article overview

Got Nightlife? Manage Sociability as an Economic Engine


Peters, Jim, Lakomski, Alicia, Public Management


How well does your community plan for the social interaction needs of each generation?

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For almost two decades, the transition from suburban development to investment of public and private resources in city and county infrastructure has demonstrated the power of the New Urbanism and smart growth movements. Housing has grown denser, public transportation has been enhanced and streamlined, and improvements to public space design and landscaping have increased the aesthetic appeal of communities.

Yet when people with rapidly changing social demands and lifestyles are added to the space created for them, local government managers are forced to reevaluate these traditional pillars of development. A focus on planning for people and their need to socialize is an emerging challenge for managers as dining and entertainment venues as well as later hours are integrated into residential areas.

The Rise of Nightlife in Mixed-Use Communities

Many communities have experienced a transition from an industry-based economy to one that is primarily services based. Abandoned factories and warehouses have been replaced with lofts and such nightlife venues as bars, clubs, lounges, and restaurants.

To tap into the revitalization catalyzed by the development of hospitality venues, boutique businesses and start-up companies often relocate to districts with these social amenities. Convention centers draw association business, filling up hotels and nearby restaurants. Downtown sport stadiums and arenas have reclaimed abandoned districts. Communities that offer these "live, work, and play" experiences can host tens of thousands of people in a single evening.

Anticipating people's need for social interaction at different times of the day, and particularly at night, is critical for the success of a mixed-use community. Properly planned and managed, hospitality zones where people gather to share food, drink, music, and dancing can be a prosperous investment, centralizing both attractions and services.

Unplanned hospitality zones can be costly, lead to conflicts, and produce an excessive burden on police and demands for appointed and elected officials to manage safety and quality-of-life impacts. Considerations include transportation, parking, utilities (water, energy, sewerage), and trash management to ensure that a high standard of living is met for both visitors and residents. An expansive network of stakeholders is required to create a comprehensive system for district development and management.

This article will introduce demographic trends, establish a framework for action, define terminology, and highlight the six core elements of a hospitality zone--entertainment, public safety, multiuse sidewalks, venue safety, late-night transportation, and quality of life.

Trends and the Social Economy

Understanding the nature of people to cluster into groups, often seeking space conducive to their life stage or lifestyle, leads to insights on better zoning for the intensity of activity in an area. In addition to the critical aspects of physical planning of a community's core, it is necessary to plan for social interaction. Whether dealing with such public spaces as parks and plazas or commercial venues providing dining and entertainment, policymakers and planners need to consider different social generations' need for interaction.

Media of the last decade, including television shows like Seinfeld, Friends, and Sex and the City, inspired a new culture of urban living among friends, which redefined socializing in stark contrast to the family-oriented environments depicted in the earlier television shows like Father Knows Best, Leave It to Beaver, and Ozzie and Harriet.

Demographics

Birthrate data can often provide clues to the past and present and also serve as a barometer of the future patterns in a community's evolution. …

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Got Nightlife? Manage Sociability as an Economic Engine
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