Community For All Ages
Gladstone, a first tier suburb, is not unlike any other first tier suburb across the country. First tier suburbs are those that ring the edges of major cities like Kansas City, Missouri. These suburbs also experienced great growth following World War II as the housing market changed and homeownership became available to many young families. The country experienced a population boom in the years following World War II. But, the generation before World War II was the Traditionalist Generation (those people born between 1900 and 1945), and are the parents of the baby boomers. Across the country there are more than 4.5 million people over the age of 85. In Gladstone alone, according to the 2010 Census, there are more than 3,000 people who are members of the Traditionalist Generation. Baby Boomers are the children of the Traditionalist Generation and account for the largest percentage of Gladstone citizens, more than 8,500 according to the 2010 Census. Nationally, it is estimated that by 2030, one in five Americans will be older than 65. The aging population forces us to think to the future and how we can successfully create a community for all ages.
The youngest labeled generation in society is the Millennials. These are people that were born between 1980 and 2000 and are sometimes referred to as "Generation Y," the children of the post-World War II Baby Boomer generation. National estimates indicate that there are 76 million Millennials in the United States. The 2010 Census reflects that there are more than 7,500 Millennials in Gladstone.
Each generation tends to have their own unique values and desires but as we look at how to create a community for all ages we must understand that Baby Boomers will redefine what it is to "age." Boomers are more active when compared to previous generations. They have good healthcare and tend to be mentally and physically fit, and are living longer. Boomers and Millennials want many of the same things; quality housing, good education, recreation opportunities, excellent health care and walkable communities. All of these things give way to what is commonly referred to as a "Community for All Ages." As we look to the future, if we emphasize the concepts of a Community for All Ages, we can meet the needs of Boomers, Millennials and more. "Older citizens, families with young children and the young adult population share many common needs, interests and concerns. The key community components that the elderly need to successfully age in place are the same as those needed by young adults and families with children: safe, walkable neighborhoods, a complete range of services nearby (childcare, senior centers, parks, food stores, heathcare, etc.), an opportunity for civic engagement, affordable and mixed-use housing and adequate transportation options." (2)
It is this type of cross-generational citizen engagement that generates the type of success seen in the Gladstone on the Move Strategic Plan that was implemented in 2005, which led to the City being recognized as an All-America City in 2008. Now, eight years later the plan that was crafted by this mixed generation group of citizens is nearly completed. There are items from this plan that are now a regular part of the budget including the annual installation or replacement of new sidewalks and the installation of new streetlights throughout the City. The following summary represents many of the objectives that resulted from the efforts of the citizens who worked with Gladstone on the Move. These are all actions that allow us to create a community that can be enjoyed by all citizens.
For a number of years there was an expressed need for a community center that would provide a variety of facilities that ranged from a gymnasium to fitness classes. Gladstone on the Move reinforced this need and now it is a reality. A partnership with North Kansas City Schools allowed a natatorium to be included that has a competition pool with bleacher seating, a dive well and a leisure pool. The center became the anchor point for a bigger plan that called for the development of a Downtown Center that would further provide Gladstone with an identity and create a sense of place in the community. While providing businesses the opportunity to invest in our community. Redevelopment brings new business into the community and will help create an economic sustainability that will guide the future. These initiatives required revisions to the City"s Comprehensive Plan. The plan was amended following a series of public meetings that engaged more than 150 people who helped with the visioning process and yielded a plan that we are now using. The guidance from those meetings led to the development of Linden Square, which is now at the heart of the downtown development effort. The City"s investment in Linden Square led to a public- private partnership with Dr. Louis Pollina, who built a new office building on the west edge of Linden Square that now houses his Dentistry for Children practice. These developments led to a $28 million investment called The Heights at Linden Square. The Heights is a mixed use development that includes 10,000 square feet of commercial space in the downtown area as well as 222 luxury apartments.
Public transportation has always been a concern in the community. The expressed concerns of citizens have kept staff actively engaged in the pursuit of improved transit to the extent that the ATA"s Metro Flex Service is now available in Gladstone. Metro Flex simply allows a person to schedule their ride and Metro Flex will transport them from their home to their destination. There are also new transit stops at 70th and N. Oak that fit right into the downtown plan. Combine this effort with the new trails and sidewalks throughout the City and you can see that great strides have been made to create a walkable, pedestrian friendly community. The goal is to link all areas of the City to the Community Center and "downtown." This is an ongoing effort that involves many projects including the addition of sidewalks with nearly $3 million having been allocated to new and reconstructed sidewalks in recent years. Gladstone on the Move said that there was a need to create an identity for the City. The installation of entry signs at the city limits, the Gladstone magazine, recognition as an All-America City and the building of Linden Square have helped create an identity. The City"s Arts Commission is making great strides toward developing visual and public art displays. The amphitheater continues to thrive with regional performances having been regularly scheduled, art showings in the Community Center have been successful, and musical concerts have been scheduled at the Oak Grove Amphitheater and Linden Square.
Senior citizens have always been an integral part of the community and Gladstone continues to offer one of the best 50-Plus programs in the region. Beyond that program and all it offers, the City has fostered a partnership with Clay County Senior Services (CCSS) for improved outreach and programming. This partnership allows seniors to participate in a scholarship program for exercise and walking opportunities at the Community Center along with the many services provided by CCSS.
While this summary may not be inclusive of all that Gladstone on the Move directed it does reflect the progress that has been made. Progress that brings the community to the point of beginning another citizen based strategic planning process. In order to effectively create a new strategic plan we must look to a civic engagement model that replicates the Gladstone on the Move process. The first step in this engagement process is to identify our community stakeholders. Our experience says it is important that this be an intergenerational group so we can identify the specific needs and desires of each generation. This is extremely important in deciding what the community needs to look like and how it must evolve if we are going to successfully create a Community for All Ages. This group of prospective planners will include Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation Xers (people born between1965-1980) and of course Millennials. Each of these generational groups is a part of greater Gladstone and each brings a different set of values and beliefs to the planning table. We can all learn something from each other through this process.
Current research indicates that the Millennialgeneration is the new generation of civic engagement. As we look to the future for our next round of strategic planning we will encourage members from this generation to participate in the process. We will continue to embrace the thoughts and ideas of all the generations that call Gladstone home, bu