Sunday, May 15, 2011

Lowell's Emergent Generation

I've had a busy weekend with Doors Open Lowell and related activities, and I plan to post photos on that in the near future. However, an interesting survey was done recently, and as low-hanging fruit, I figured I'd tackle that first.

A few months back, I learned (I believe via Young Professionals of Greater Lowell) of a working session over dinner targeting "Lowell's Emergent Generation" - That is, those of us who are post-college and under 35. Being a little shy regarding this type of thing, by the time I decided I in fact did want to participate, it was filled. However, an online survey was available, and I completed that.

The survey, which was conducted by UMass Lowell master's student Derek Mitchell with help from John Wooding, has been compiled and the results are available here:

All in all, I don't think any of the results should be surprising. Us "emergent" Lowellians feel that our city has a rough reputation it doesn't totally deserve. The most common word we used to describe the perception of Lowell is "Dangerous." The word we most frequently use to describe how we like to see it is "Diverse" (yet the majority of responders were white). Beyond that, we question the quality of the school system (a concern seen in urban areas with sizable young populations everywhere - Cambridge anyone?), cleanliness (broken windows theory...) and the big concerns on our list include public safety, walkability, affordability, and the availability of jobs. Changes we'd like to see range from the crunchy (there is a lot in here about local, organic food) to the intensely practical (safe places for children to play). We spend a lot of time downtown, and we'd be willing to support a lot more down here. To that end, we'd be very interested in doing something I've been babbling about for years: we need to sell the city to our age group, outside of the city. We are also looking for better, stronger connections between various organizations, and better ways to spread ideas.

To that point, it's interesting to note that only 120 people answered the online survey. Considering the population of the city that falls within the target age group, that should be a cause for alarm. Either we are an extremely indifferent generation, or we are proving to be very hard to engage. I'm honestly not sure which one I think it is - perhaps a bad combination of both.


  1. Had I known about the survey I would have taken it. I think the problem with Lowell's rep is that one bad "event" can overshadow 1000 good ones. When something bad happens in Roxbury or Mattapan you wouldn't think of Boston as dangerous. When something happens in the acre or lower centralville the whole city gets a bad rap.
    The city should market the positive aspects of each neighborhood. This could be good for Lowellians to increase pride and help outsiders understand that Lowell has many layers.

  2. Well I guess I am over the hill as compared to the "emergent" Lowellian, but the survey results reflect how I feel, Corey.

    Of course, age is just a number. I am always commenting to my friends and co-workers of what kind of wonderful gem of a city Lowell is. A little more polish may be needed, but it is happening. I will continue to advertise to my age group. Older folks are listening...