Being someone who was born after 1980, I exist in a generational category designated as “millennials.” Every single week there is a new study about our generation, and surely there should be. According to the United States Census, the Millennial Generation is the largest to ever move through history, at nearly 20 Million more than the next closest Baby Boomer in regards to size. These studies range from Millennial Marketing to shopping habits, food choices, modes of transportation and more, yet the most conflicting of all these studies is WHERE do these millennials live. Some have said that this generation prefer to relocate from the distant suburbia to a thriving downtown highrise, while other reports including The Washington Post declare that just like their parents and generations before, millennials desire to live in sprawling communities at the edge of the city.
My city is different than any of the results from the studies mentioned above. For me, I am located just two blocks from downtown Fort Wayne and the ever booming riverfront development area. I could have selected anywhere in Fort Wayne to live, from the estates in 46804 to the cramped apartments lining Washington, Wayne or Berry. Instead of settling for what researchers were telling me, I picked an small residential enclave located near a Kroger, Pizza Hut and access to nearby Hamilton Park. My two dogs have never complained about the short five minute walk to the green grass of the nearby park and the traffic isn’t congested keeping me up all hours of the night. Something funny happened, in 2014 I discovered I am not alone. Something finally broke through with city planners, after spending years designing and studying what they assumed millennials would rush to buy, they found that their historic, tree lined streets constructed between 1860 and 1940 were seeing large demographic changes. Many houses in these once neglected neighborhoods were rent havens, but this swell of millennials began purchasing the houses for a much lesser price than their suburban counterparts. This was the rise of the Millennial City.
The Millennial City is different than our many cookie cutter suburban communities, filled with non-descript vinyl sided homes. This new Millennial City thrives on walkability and easy access to public transit. As I think about the Bloomingdale neighborhood, I am within five minutes of the nearby CitiLink stop, access to the Saint Mary’s river and even the famed Fort Wayne River Greenway. What is even more fascinating is the relationship component that millennials are thirsting for when selecting a neighborhood to call home. This generation is looking for a neighborhood that promotes quality of life and mind. Imagine a neighborhood with a local community center that has contiuous programming in place or a school that has all aged activities after hours and churches that become multi-use facilities. In addition to the necessary requriements for relationships and quality of life is the centralized schools and the rise of small commercial shopping centers, often with only three to four storefronts offering basic necessities from food to haircare.
Sure, we will continue to see investments in our downtown residential and continued growth in the suburban footprint, but it’s great to see the renaissance that the cities are experiencing in the core. These Nebraska, Oakdale, Soutwood Park, NorthSide and Lakeside neighborhoods that have been a part of the city for over 100 years are coming back to life after city planners began to ignore just a few short decades ago.