Add trendy stores to rehab efforts

On an almost daily basis, I have a conversation with myself on the way to work. As I drive down Atlantic and Scott and Porter, I wonder what it would take to revitalize our city-to see it return to a place in which people want to live, work and have families.

For decades, similar conversations have been happening in boardrooms all across the county, and steps have been taken to make the dream of revitalization a reality. Decaying homes are being renovated to their former beauty, and those homes beyond repair are being replaced by community gardens. Many movements are afoot to make Warren a desirable city once again.

What we have to realize is that Warren has the same potential as many other declining urban centers across the country. Yet, unlike other urban centers, it seems as though Warren is not doing all it can to make living in Warren a safe, convenient, and enjoyable place to live.

So what is everyone else doing that we aren’t?

Across the country, major urban centers are watching decaying neighborhoods – neighborhoods that look and feel a lot like Warren – become hubs for culture and entertainment that 20- and 30-somethings cannot resist. Drive through any major city and you’ll often find an up-and-coming neighborhood in the middle of what many would consider a questionable area of town.

What leaders in major urban centers understand about young people is that they are, in fact, interested in living in a city.

Studies show that young people, especially millennials – those born from 1980 to 2000 – have little interest in home ownership. Basic upkeep, like mowing the lawn, is just too inconvenient and expensive.

Instead, millennials are very interested in living in cities, where amenities are easily accessible and major purchases like a house or car are not necessary for an enjoyable and enriching life.

Knowing this, cities across the country understand that young people will move into “questionable” neighborhoods if it has trendy restaurants, a Starbucks, and a place to buy groceries and essentials like soap and toothpaste.

If we want Warren to become a city where young people, or any people, want to relocate, these are some of the key ingredients to making dreams of a bustling and vital Warren a reality.

While citywide efforts to refurbish homes neighborhood by neighborhood and home by home are certainly admirable and necessary, it will take a lot more than a beautiful home to attract young people to the city. It will take a Starbucks on Courthouse Square, unique-to-our-area restaurants, and a grocery store (preferably something trendy like Trader Joe’s) within walking distance of that Starbucks.

Leaders in Warren have to resist the urge to reinvent the wheel, and should instead develop collaborative partnerships with leaders from other cities that have successfully revitalized. We need to stop thinking that Warren is beyond hope, and instead make aggressive investments in our city.

We need more restaurants that are innovative and delicious, more businesses that offer the essentials people need to live day-to-day, and more places to live that are attractive, affordable, and safe. Warren can be a vibrant city once again, but it’s up to us to make it happen.

Tennant is a Warren resident. Email him at