February 04 2013

The Lost Downtown Demographic

Teens and young adults want to go out with their friends, and they like to stay out as late as possible. That’s a fact of life. But where do most of these teens and young people spend their time? Preferably somewhere they can park their hand-me-down, four-wheeled, newfound freedom machine: the automobile. But, their weekend nights usually doesn’t get far past the parking lot. Minors aged fifteen to twenty are the lost downtown demographic.

Most of the time the only places that allow minors under twenty-one on their premises after 10pm are movie theaters, gas stations, and the occasional fro-yo hut. If there aren’t any other options, most teens choose public places where nobody is admitted past dark, like sport courts, skateboard parks, and playgrounds. Downtown is where the majority of nightlife lies for those over twenty-one, and it needs to be a place where minors can enjoy themselves too.

The Post Street Ale House in downtown Spokane, WA

If minors, high school and college-aged, had places to go at night on the weekends, we may see the next generation making better choices, such as not going to dangerous house parties. An annual survey, conducted by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University, says:

“One-third of teens and nearly half of 17-year olds attend house parties where parents are present and teens are drinking, smoking marijuana or using cocaine, ecstasy or prescription drugs. CASA’s survey also reveals that teens who say parents are not present at the parties they attend are 16 times likelier to say alcohol is available, 15 times likelier to say illegal and prescription drugs are available and 29 times likelier to say marijuana is available, compared to teens who say parents are always present at the parties they attend.”

The Peacock Room in downtown Spokane, WA

Hanging out at the mall isn’t cool anymore. Establishments that cater to minors, at least those fifteen years and older, could find themselves very successful because current alternatives are either considered immature or are illegal. Diversifying the downtown core will only help the city’s revitalization efforts and can positively affect all businesses downtown, regardless of target audience.

Has your downtown neglected the lost demographic? How would you fix this social issue of “lost” minors?

Credit: Data and images linked to sources. Images taken by author.

Aascot Holt

Aascot Holt is an undergraduate at Eastern Washington University, pursuing a major in Urban and Regional Planning and a minor in Geography. She will graduate in the spring of 2013. She is from Stevenson, WA and currently lives in Spokane, WA in a brick 1936 kit house. She is most intrigued by small-city and small town planning, parks and recreation planning, long-range planning, and historic preservation. She hopes to continue her habit of being involved with many planning projects at a time, and fears being pigeonholed. Aascot maintains the “Being A Planning Student” Tumblr as well as her planning-centric blog, The Comprehensive. She is currently writing Cheney, WA’s entirely new comprehensive parks, recreation, and trails plan, completely pro bono. More can be learned about her endeavors via LinkedIn.

This entry was posted on Monday, February 4th, 2013 at 9:01 am and is filed under Community/Economic Development, Content, Social/Demographics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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3 Responses to “The Lost Downtown Demographic”

  1. Justin S Says:

    There’s another catch here:

    The “downtown” teen demographic in any city I’ve ever lived hasn’t been the standard teen demographic. At least in my limited experience, downtown teens tend to be mostly poor urban minorities. Those kids not only tend to lack spending power, but also tend to be seen as a source of crime & blight rather than a resource. No one wants them around. Here in DC, new downtown businesses have had to go so far as to promise NOT to provide services that might increase teen presence, just to get the permits they needed to operate.

    If we’re ever seriously going to make the downtowns places for all people, the public schools have to be good enough to attract students from families of all incomes. Again in DC, the city is being over-run with 20-somethings with great jobs, who love the urban centers. The moment we pair off and start families, we move out to the burbs. It’s not because we like the burbs, it’s just… well… sending your kid to DC public school instead of any of the amazing suburban schools in Va would probably do more to hurt your child’s future than mid-level child abuse would. For urban centers to be more than cool hangouts for recent grads & other childless demographics, we’ve got to fix the schools. With that, the supporting businesses will follow.

  2. Streets.MN Rundown … « Thoughts on the Urban Environment Says:

    [...] are teens and young adults? That’s a good question. Here’s a quote Aascot Holt at Global Site Plans: “Most of the time the only places that allow minors under twenty-one on their premises after [...]

  3. Urban Parks Affected by Time and Light | The GRID | Global Site Plans Says:

    [...] However, after sunset, the park attracts a multitude of teen groups of two to eight individuals each. Some stroll and chat about the movie they just saw together at the theater across the street, some show each other skateboard tricks, and some simply loiter, as teens tend to do in downtown areas after dark. [...]

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