Understanding that youth, in particular teenagers, have a unique interest in Downtown and that catering to youth is an important step in building the future downtown population, we conducted three separate Youth Focus Group meetings as part of the master plan. Each meeting had a unique format and was organized for different audiences.
On August 1, 2013, the first Youth Focus Group meeting was organized by and for approximately 20 student participants in the YouthCity summer employment program. Student interns prepared and distributed a handout that included facts about Downtown Salt Lake City. After reviewing the handout, students responded to 12 questions that focused on land uses and activities, as well as transportation choices and issues in Downtown Salt Lake. Whereas most of the participants were under 16, and did not yet drive, it was interesting to note that most participants did not travel downtown alone. While the youth seemed to enjoy Downtown they did not identify places and services that catered to or attracted them. Shopping and attending cultural events were the primary reasons for visiting Downtown Salt Lake.
On October 24, 2013, the second Youth Focus Group meeting was organized by Planning Division staff for advanced geography students of City Academy, a public charter school near Downtown Salt Lake. Staff presented an overview of statistics and issues from the draft Salt Lake City Downtown Master Plan Existing Conditions Analysis and facilitated a broad-reaching conversation with a dozen students. The most prominent issue identified was the need to make Downtown Salt Lake environmentally sustainable—especially to attract future residents, visitors, businesses, and patrons of Downtown. In essence, the students urged that if Downtown Salt Lake does not look, feel, and act green, it will not be attractive to the next generation of users. Increasing passive and active recreational sites that allows for both planned and unplanned activities was another significant point of discussion. Downtown diversity in all categories of land use and societal patterns was also emphasized.
On November 15, 2013, the final Youth Focus Group meeting was held at SpyHop, a non-profit youth media arts organization located at 511 W 200 South Street. The meeting was attended by representatives of various community organizations who are engaged in providing education, activities, and services for youth. The meeting was an “open forum” to discuss broad issues concerning youth in Downtown Salt Lake. Topics included transportation, economic development, recreation, open space, commercial activities, urban design, arts, cultural events, and social issues. Numerous concerns and opportunities for improvement were identified and documented during the meeting, some of which are listed below:
Based on feedback received from the Youth Focus Group meetings, community leaders need to ask: What needs to be done to attract youth and support youth activities Downtown? How can we make noticeable improvements in public safety? How can we make Downtown Salt Lake environmentally sustainable? The overriding message is it is critical to plan for the needs of youth and families in Downtown Salt Lake.