Go West(chester)

What is there about youth that we’re always chasing it?  Can’t we be happy with the wisdom of age?  Well, here’s a new twist on both ends of the spectrum.  Thought leaders in Westchester are using their wisdom to make Westchester the “in” place for young people to live, work and play.  It’s a strategy aimed at “youth flight.”  There’s so much to do here in Westchester…arts, jazz clubs, museums, parks, golf, restaurants, bars, theater…that the prevailing wisdom in the business community is that young people will want to hang out here.

Last week, the Business Council of Westchester announced the results of a survey, which concluded that young adults are not fleeing Westchester, but simply want more to do here and more information on things to do.  That was music to our ears here at ArtsW where we list hundreds of events on our online calendar.  Admittedly, we need some help to make our calendar more funkier and appealing to the under 35 crowd. But help is on the way from the Business Council’s roster of several hundred Rising Stars (under 40) whose guidance we need to reach more of those Gen Xers.

As with any challenge, there’s more than one answer.  At the Westchester County Association, the powers that be are working with their Young Professionals organization and the national Project for Public Spaces to find creative ways to fill the 6,000,000 vacant square feet of office space with new investors, jobs and mixed-use developments. They are exploring sustainable communities that include professional housing, arts and entertainment and sports activities as a way to attract young adults. These will be model communities built to have a “buzz” factor with placemaking as a catalyst .

One such cutting edge community, Dobbs Ferry, this week announced a new 8-screen Sundance Movie complex bearing the imprimatur of none other than Robert Redford. The Jacob Burns Film Center seems to have proven that movies, especially the artsy kind, make good community partners.

Meanwhile White Plains Mayor Tom Roach is exploring a cultural district in the downtown and a cow parade for 2013. (No the cows don’t parade.  They are designed by artists and just sit and stand all over the city).  Ossining Mayor Bill Hanover thinks Ossining is the place for young people to be with its affordable housing and a citywide outdoor sculpture show planned for 2013. And bravo to Port Chester where the old Capitol Theatre is being renovated, soon to be filled with top notch musical talent.

This is of course all good news for the arts in Westchester. It’s hard to imagine that 20 years ago, Westchester was just a bedroom community. Who wouldda thunk?

In days gone by people were saying “Go West, Young Man.”  Now they’re saying “Go West(chester).”

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