Great cities don’t just happen, but are instead a mix of deliberate, organized efforts. And there seems to be certain similarities for cities that are growing, thriving and building in 2012 and beyond. Peter Kageyama, keynote speaker for the Downtown Arlington Management Corporation’s annual meeting, identified those efforts that work and create “Loveable Cities.” During his September visit to Arlington Kageyama emphasized building excitement for the city from the inside to foster more engagement with citizens without committing to major resources.
As a co-founder of the Creative Cities Summit and author of For the Love of Cities, Kageyama looks at why it matters for residents to love the place they live. “When we have an emotional connection to our place, we are less likely to leave it and far more likely to champion and defend it in the face of criticism. We will fight for it, “Kageyama says in his book. He likens the love of cities to love of anything, saying when we love someone “we will tolerate their shortfalls; we will forgive their excesses–all because we see their true nature.”
Let’s face it though. As studies show, many people aren’t at all in love with where they live. They are neutral at best. But even just a few lovers of Arlington can have an amazing impact, according to Kageyama. “Emotions are contagious,” Kageyama said during his recent visit. “What we need is more of that, especially right now for our cities.”
The Downtown Arlington Management Corporation has a number of initiatives underway to help citizens get behind Arlington, fall in love with the city, and spread the news. As in many places, that started with places to relax, socialize and eat. “In just a little over two years 12 new restaurants have opened in downtown Arlington,” said Tony Rutigliano, president and CEO of the downtown group. That has brought many more people here to see what else is going on, the activity at the Levitt Pavilion, and the excitement in UT-Arlington’s College Park District, including College Park Center, a brand new arena with seating for 7,000, housing for students and, you guessed it - more restaurants.
Indeed, Kageyama says downtown is often the psychic center for a community, and Arlington’s downtown is up for grabs. As he ended his presentation, he pointed out that UT Arlington is a logical platform for growth for the downtown area. He also talked about how Abram Street fits in, and how it is crucial to the vibrancy of downtown. “Make it special,” Kageyama said. “It can’t just be a thoroughfare. It needs to the gateway for events and people walking through downtown.” That will create energy in downtown Arlington, and have a lasting impact on the rest of the city. “All that energy will raise everybody else’s game,” Kageyama said.