IN prospering cities today, young professionals are opting for a downtown lifestyle.
Disdaining the suburbs of their parents' generation, they want nice apartments within walking distance of good restaurants, friendly bars and trendy shops.
And Charleston wants them.
Mayor Danny Jones believes young earners are the key to the city's future, and his administration has worked hard to create a climate that will attract them.
He has courageously jettisoned tired events like the Sternwheel Regatta and fostered the development of new ones, like the summer Live on the Levee concerts, June's FestivAll and October's Rod Run and Doo Wop car show.
He talked up an overhaul of Kanawha Boulevard that would have slowed traffic but drawn more walkers, runners and bikers to the city's attractive riverfront. Lacking the means to execute the costly plan, the mayor has pushed ahead with parts of it, like the re-do of Haddad Riverfront Park.
He works closely with the city's Convention and Visitors Bureau to draw conferences to town. Just this week he was in California pitching the city's assets to a large military group.
He has another plan, ambitious but necessary, to renovate and expand the Charleston Civic Center, a focal point for convention planners.
Meanwhile, the city's population, which has dropped in tandem with the state's for decades, has stabilized. It is hovering at just over 50,000 residents.
The mayor cares deeply about the city. I know from talking with him that he reads widely and picks the brains of other mayors as he strives for workable ideas.
This has to be frustrating because vision invariably involves expense, and the city is hardly flush with cash. To the contrary, it is saddled with pension liabilities that take bigger bites of its budget each year.
So the city's latest idea for luring young professionals — by building them nice but subsidized apartments on the old Holley Hotel site on Quarrier Street — strikes me as quite a reach.
The unusual proposal has become tied to the city's effort to snag a grant from the private Bloomberg Foundation. Hundreds of other cities are applying as well. Four winning cities will receive $1 million each, and one will get $5 million.
Neither amount would be enough to build what city leaders seem to want — a complex with street-level shops and several floors of upscale apartments.
So one idea for covering costs is to get businesses to put up rent subsidies of $10,000 per year for each employee who agrees to live in one of the apartments.
Another aspect to the proposal would have apartment dwellers engaging in a three-year leadership program during their off hours. The idea is to cultivate new community leaders who dwell within city limits.