Gabriel O’Shea: Vibrant downtown will attract young professionals

Gabriel O’Shea with Forge and Kristen Brunkow O’Shea with Heartland Visioning share an ambitious vision of downtown Topeka that includes the presence of young professionals, shops and year-round activity. (Thad Allton/The Capital-Journal)

A vibrant downtown Topeka will attract and retain young professionals.

 

“I want to see a grocery store, bars, restaurants, coffee shops, restaurants, lofts and lots of young people,” native Topekan Gabriel O’Shea said.

Young professionals are flocking to cities that offer these amenities in their downtown districts. Affordability and the ability to walk or bike also are important elements.

“Downtown is the heart of the city, and without a thriving downtown, there will not be a thriving city,” said O’Shea, the executive director of Forge. “For Topeka to continue to attract young talents, we need to create this in our downtown.”

Forge’s work promotes culture, networking and activities that appeal to young professionals. The organization has hosted events showcasing downtown developments and connected people to various downtown organizations and leaders. Last fall, it hosted Forge Fest at S.W. 9th and Jackson, which drew about 500 people.

As executive director, O’Shea also has been advocating for the Home Rule Bill, which was introduced during the Kansas legislature’s last session. The bill would allow municipalities to designate entertainment districts conducive to nightlife and restaurants. In essence, the bill would allow Topeka to create an area similar to downtown Kansas City’s Power & Light District, O’Shea said.

Mayoral elections are Aug. 2

Name: Gabriel O’Shea

Age: 26

Profession: executive director of Forge

 

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