It’s NOT so such about the economy. Rather, it is more about the physical and social aesthetics of a place. Such is what the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and Gallup report in the recently released “Knight Soul of the Community 2010,” a study about why people love where they live and why it matters.
Jobs, the economy and safety are NOT the top factors. In fact, higher ratings go to “elements that relate directly to their daily quality of life.” These include: physical beauty, opportunities for socializing and the openness of a community to all people.
This, friends, is interesting stuff. Policy makers continue to place priority on JES (jobs, economy, safety) and, according to this study, residents are looking at things a different way. JES matters, of course, it just doesn’t rank as high as the issues of physical and social aesthetics because if you don’t have the aesthetics, you don’t have the JES.
“Over the last three years, the Soul of the Community study has found a positive correlation between community attachment and local GDP growth … This is a key metric in assessing community success because local GDP growth not only measures a community’s economic success, but also its ability to grow and meet residents’ needs,” the report states.
I take this information as evidence of a shift from ”build it and they will come” to “clean it up, liven it up and they will come” and I think this adjustment toward aesthetics is especially important to post-industrial places, such as Pennsylvania.
What do you think?
Speaking of community attachment and loving where you live, Arts on Union, established three years ago in Middletown, PA, participated in Middletown’s 2010 Tour of Historic Homes last weekend. More than 100 people came through our doors and we enjoyed interacting with each one of them. Many people remembered when our business and home was a dentist office and they seemed to enjoy seeing a re-purposed building. When I think about it, I have to laugh. Dr. Welkie was in the business of making nice smiles and as a photographer, I kind of do the same.
Middletown is home to Penn State Harrisburg, which has plans to grow. Town-and-gown communities like ours are in a good position to provide the aesthetics to keep young minds in the community. After all, they already have the audience. They just have to figure how best to make and sustain the aesthetics that this and other surveys say are so important to re-creating places where people want to live and work.
Here are some photographs of our place. We love it. It remains a work in progress, as do most homes and all towns.