There was a city mouse and a country mouse. Ok, you know the rest of this children’s story and the country mouse eventually went back to live in the countryside, content to live in his quiet corner.
When it comes to Millennials, the opposite is true and impact of Millennial home owners, renters, and workers is changing the cities across the country. Just look at the fastest growing cities such as Nashville, Dallas, and Oklahoma City and you will see one thing in common – thousands of Millennials.
What does all this mean? For one thing, the latest generation of city mice are changing all aspects of city living including how urban planning, how commercial real estate is designed, and even rethinking public spaces. With that in mind, here are four ways Millennials are changing city living – and it’s about time.
First, Some Perspective
By this time, you have probably heard of the ‘Millennials’ and how they are coming. While this makes for catchy headlines, the reality is that this group is already here. In 2015, Millennials finally surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest generation in America’s workforce. This is a big deal as Baby Boomers have held the top spot for more than 30-years.
What is a Millennial? While there is no one ‘exact’ definition, the consensus pegs this generation as being born sometime between 1977 and 1997. By and large, this makes the Millennials the children of Baby Boomers who were born in the period following the Second World War. Granted, this is not exact either, but for older Millennials, this is largely the case.
However, Millennials could not be further from their parents. Not only have they eschewed the rush the suburbs and the crass commercialization of previous generations, they also tend to be more fiscally attuned. This creates challenges for just about every consumer-facing industry, including real estate as Millennial homeowners tend to have different views home ownership than their predecessors.
Ok, enough with the sociology lesson. Let’s get to the task at hand – how Millennials are changing city living.
A major pull for urban areas has always been commerce and the impact of Millennials on the office is already being felt in cities across the country. Take General Electric’s move from suburban Connecticut to Boston or what is currently happening in San Francisco, this generation is driving what is being called urban immigration.
One thing that has popped up around this phenomenon is called the ‘urban campus’. This is a take on the corporate office campuses which have been promulgated in suburbs for the past 30-years. The reason is simple – Millennials don’t want to commute two hours to work. Instead, their preference is to live close to work and then either walk, bike, or use public transportation to commute.
Now, you might think that this would drive up rents in city centers – and this is happening. But another trend is to convert long-neglected urban industrial spaces into office estates.
This is the generation who basically does not know a world without online shopping and this is having a massive impact on how designers think about retail. Gone are the suburban strip malls and big-box retailers.
In their place are urban stores which mix in boutiques with the ability to pick up everything you have ordered on line and scaled down retail experiences to get everything else. Add on top of this the plethora of delivery options and shopping is no longer about spending a day at the mall but about having the world coming to your door.
- Living Spaces
Given the preference to tie work and shopping into more livable cities, it should not come as a surprise that living spaces are also undergoing a sea change. This can be seen in the work of urban living architects that focus on innovative mixed-use developments, affordable multi-family housing and welcoming senior ties together living, working, shopping, and eating into one development.
Another trend is the rise in micro-apartments and co-loving spaces. Both trends tie into the more itinerate lifestyle, working on project work in a town and then moving to work with a startup in another city. Conversely this move towards ‘small and flexible’ is just an indication of the relative young age of the Millennials, as very few have reached their mid-30’s at this point.
While older Millennials can remember a world without the internet, most don’t know a world without personal computers, cable television, and computer games. Add to this the explosion in mobile devices and this is forcing urban planners to rethink the very foundations of how cities function.
With this has come the rise in the ‘Smart City’ movement. This is a city which is connected to its inhabitants and where technology is an enabler for a better quality of life. This is a dramatic shift from urban living in the 1970’s when cities across the country were slowly dying under the weight of suburban flight, crime, and budget deficits.
While today’s urban renaissance is uneven, the impact of Millennials on city living is accelerating and in many ways, it is laying the groundwork for the next generation who will have spent their entire lives in a connected, and often mobile, world.