Vancouver’s downtown-family success, from the perspective of a Downtown ATL Dad

We just take it for granted: when it comes to dense urban areas like Downtown, young residents are going to vacate their apartments and high-tail it to more suburban areas as soon as they have children.

And statistically, this is true of many North American cities. Except Vancouver, which has thousands of families with children living in its downtown. How did they do it?

Downtown Dad’s kid playing near our apartment, in Woodruff Park, Downtown Atlanta

Vancouver’s Chief Planner from 2006 to 2012 says there are three elements of family-friendly city design that helped out: bigger housing, amenities for families, and a safe, welcoming public realm.

“Vancouver has somewhere between 5,600 and 7,000 kids downtown, by design. Vancouver found that if you design specifically for families, you will achieve numbers of kids that will be a challenge for you. A good problem to have, right?”

As a Downtown Atlanta father of a school-aged kid, I can vouch for those ideas.

We picked the one spot where we could find one of the precious few spacious (by Downtown standards, not by suburban standards) apartments near public space and greenery. The neighborhood could use a lot more of those.

Safe and welcoming? Downtown Atlanta can stand to make some big improvements there.

And before you scream “but, schools! City schools are terrible!” — Shut that generalized mess up. Improvements are needed but they won’t happen if parents with spare time and energy all move away. Plus, Downtown is in the Grady cluster and we’re happy with it. And really, you kinda have keep your helicopter-parent, suburban expectations of schools in check when you live in the big city, which is not a bad thing.