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BOLD OPINION: To Revitalize Cities, We Need Party Zones

After having spent a year in lockdown, many urban dwellers are welcoming a return of a vibrant city nightlife. As vaccination rates climb, and herd immunity increases, restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues are reopening. But simply reopening may not be enough to achieve the urban revitalization needed in many areas. It will take time for many cities to recover from the economic oppression imposed by the pandemic. One possible solution, however, is one that many cities may not have considered. That involves creating designated party zones where patrons and businesses can both meet their needs.

In many cities around the world, nighttime curfews are in place. Many restaurants, bars and other entertainment concert areas must close at specified times. (Want another Bold opinion? The world needs concerts!) This has been thought to be beneficial in reducing crime and illegal activities. However, there is some evidence that these restrictions may have the opposite effect. Therefore, creating party zones to accommodate and extended city nightlife could have many advantages. In addition to contributing to much-needed urban revitalization, it could also improve a city’s overall safety and quality. It’s for these reasons that major cities should seriously consider developing party zones within their boundaries.

“Cities around the world are expanding the way institutions and businesses can operate at night, as limitations on closing hours have pushed late night activity to unlicensed venues, sometimes coming into conflict with residential uses.” – New York City’s Office of Nightlife Report

New York’s Recent Proposal for City Nightlife

One of the cities that was hardest hit by the pandemic was undoubtedly New York City. Many bars and restaurants were forced to close as lockdowns and quarantine restrictions were imposed. As these restrictions have been lifted, city nightlife has returned and is more vibrant than ever. However, continued curfews at nighttime have prevented the degree of urban revitalization that the city needs. As a result, the New York city Office of Nightlife has proposed testing 24-hour party hubs in the city. In doing so, it hopes to not only revitalize key areas but also support the city’ longstanding environment for creativity.

The report provided by the Office of Nightlife in New York City notes that there are many benefits to 24-hour party zones. In addition to allowing businesses to extend services, party zones would also provide destinations for patrons after hours. Rather than congregating in the street, or hanging out in residential areas, New Yorkers would have a place to go. If these designated areas were outside of residential neighborhoods, conflicts between partygoers and residents would be less. At the same time, party zones would provide a setting for artists, musicians, and others to explore their creative side. Based on the analysis, party zones could preserve New York City’s culture while contributing substantially to urban revitalization.

“In residential areas, nightlife and music venues can create noise and attract traffic that draws complaints from neighboring residents. Allowing 24-hour use in specified districts, if implemented properly, can help people to move at their own pace and reduce conflicts.” – New York City’s Office of Nightlife Report

Modeling Other City’s Urban Revitalization Efforts

New York City is not the only major urban area to adopt such a perspective. In fact, several metropolitan areas around the world have done so with success. In 2012, the city of Amsterdam expanded its city nightlife by offering 24-hour operation licenses to select businesses. This included restaurants, bars, in a variety of cultural event venues. In order to receive a license, the city of Amsterdam required applicants to provide significant cultural value in their offerings. They also encouraged activities that appealed to the entire community during the day. This move has contributed greatly to Amsterdam’s urban revitalization efforts.

A cartoon of a bunch of people partying
Want to spark urban revitalization? The answer is simple: create party zones.

Amsterdam is not alone in this regard. In Tokyo, Japan, efforts to expand the city nightlife in specific areas began in 2016. Specifically, the Shibuya Ward Area extended its hours of operation well into the evening to accommodate greater tourism. Under Tokyo’s Nightlife Tourism Promotion Grant, additional funding was used to keep public areas open much longer. This has resulted insignificant tourism growth since that time. Likewise, Santiago de Cali in Columbia has created extended-hour party areas in its city as well. After 1:00 AM curfews resulted in higher crime rates, a change in its city nightlife policy took place. Once these curfews were extended in specified areas, crime rates declined and urban revitalization took place.

“Amsterdam began allowing nightlife venues to apply for 24-hour licenses in 2012, developing strict criteria for potential applicants that included cultural significance, accessibility to public transportation, and locations without ‘inconvenience to local residents.’…Approximately a dozen venues hold this extended hours permit, which allows for safer, more coordinated late-night activity throughout the city.” – New York City’s Office of Nightlife Report

Party Zones Are Essential for Urban Revitalization

When it comes to urban revitalization, New York City is not the only area struggling. The migration of workers to home settings resulted in many office centers being underutilized. While cities can serve as hubs for these businesses, a vibrant city nightlife is essential as well. Not only can this extend opportunities for urban businesses to thrive. It can also promote social interaction, creative exploration, and exposure to diversity. Each of these are critical for the innovation needed to advance society.

Party zones offer a win-win scenario that creates great potential toward urban revitalization. Such party zones can provide targeted destinations that promote creativity and social connection. And if structured well, these hubs can contribute further to a city’s culture and city nightlife without impacting residential areas. As with New York, testing specific areas within the urban environment can be informative. Through such experiments, best practices can be better defined. But as evidenced by other major cities around the globe, party zones are effective in driving growth and innovation. For these reasons, we should appreciate these concepts as a means by which modern urban environments can thrive.


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