Small town downtown

Tonight, while you’re enjoying the best night out in Sydney at Lumiere, think about how cool downtown Sydney could be every night.

I was out with our six-month old last night between 7 and 8pm, and here’s what I saw: Families walking dogs and pushing strollers (sometimes at the same time). Joggers and hand-holding couples going round and round Wentworth Park. International students carrying their groceries home under their arms looking only a little confounded. An adorable army of nerds playing with paper magic in the comic book shop with all the lights on. Diners in every restaurant. Kids riding their bikes on the sidewalk with flashing LED lights. A tour bus of seniors disembarking in front of one of the downtown hotels. Skateboarders grinding the curb in front of the civic centre.

I had a chat with those skateboarders and they told me some really simple ways the municipality could design public spaces to be more inclusive (friendly, safe and inviting for both young and old). It wouldn’t take much.

As Donnie Calabrese said in a CBC Leadership Series interview, Sydney is already pretty cool. It wouldn’t take much to make it a really cool small town downtown.

More kid- and youth-friendly public spaces. A few more businesses and coffee shops like Island Arts Cafe that stay open later. A better parking design to get more cars off the main strip and more feet on the pavement instead. Bike lanes so those kids don’t have to ride on the sidewalk. A few dozen downtown loft apartments, in a range of affordability, for young families and recently retired professionals looking to hang out a consulting shingle.

These things have a way of complementing each another, and building on one another other. Think about some of them tonight. And then think about how to make them happen.