As the millennial generation moves from the ‘youngsters’ to the ‘prime years’ category, they are having families, they are at or near peak earning years, and in some cases moving to the suburbs. Millennials are now the driving force in American politics and economics as they have both the numbers (roughly 80 million strong), and they are the movers and shakers, inventors, and entrepreneurs of the day.
To some extent it has been these younger people driving the urban lifestyle in places like Portland and Vancouver. They have loved the close in, walk-able and sustainable urban neighborhoods. Are they ready to give it all up? Maybe.
There are a number of factors that could be driving people out of the city center and into the burbs. One of course, is the aforementioned ‘family life’ which was an inevitable outcome, but other factors remain that both encourage and dissuade the ‘downtown’ crowd. The notion of the sustainable and walk-able neighborhood is still desirable among not just the Millennial crowd, but Xers and Boomers as well. What may be the root causes of the Millennial suburban migration is schools and social unrest.
In cities like Portland there are protests that routinely become unruly, in fairness to the groups holding protests, it is usually nasty outsiders causing the problems, but officials in the city of Portland seem to have a ‘let it burn’ mentality rather than a crack down on violence and destruction. This can easily dissuade a young family with small children concerned about safety issues. But the urban style planning is not limited to large urban cities like Portland or Seattle. Even traditional suburbs like Beaverton, Hillsboro, and Gresham are moving towards a sustainable, walk-able urban style albeit a bit less dense than Portland or even Vancouver.
Sometimes there are aggressive homeless in urban cores that also may have a negative effect on families that was less problematic for them before the kids came along. Schools are definitely a concern among parents especially those that cannot afford to send their children to private school. The same safety concerns regarding homeless, riots, etc. could effect children standing at a bus stop to go to school, at least in the eyes of new parents with small children.
Vancouver sits in a prime spot being much larger and more cosmopolitan than any of Oregon’s suburban communities yet smaller and less dense than the Northwest giants of Seattle and Portland. It seems Downtown Vancouver is filling a gap between sleepy suburbia and the raging urban centers. Vancouver recently approved a new urban elementary school campus to serve the rapidly growing Downtown population near the Fort Vancouver Library Admin Offices. This will certainly give parents with elementary school kids another reason to either stay put Downtown or to make the move from places like Portland.
Millennials are not the only demographic that is on board with the urban lifestyle. Older people that no longer want to deal with the suburban yard work and or long drives to various daily and weekly activities are also strong advocates for the urban condo scene. Younger fresh grads including many in the tech field that are the leading edge of the Generation Z, have grown up in a world that emphasizes the importance of smaller space, walk-able neighborhoods and ecologically sound economics of an urban neighborhood. In fact statistics show that Gen Z has the lowest rate of drivers in more than 80 years. People without cars tend to prefer urban areas.
I think the partial exit of Millennials from the urban core will be met head on with increased demand from seniors as well as the younger half of the Millennial Generation and fresh new adults from Gen Z. Seriously, who doesn’t want to be able to take a 5-10 minute walk and be able to visit more than 100 restaurants, pubs, breweries, and wineries? I believe that exodus from Portland may also drive activity here in Vancouver to keep the urban vibe buzzing for the foreseeable future.
In other news: The Columbian reported that the Ed Lynch Estate has officially acquired the entire city block that houses the 108 year brick church building most recently occupied by New Heights Church. The beautiful brick building is made from un-reinforced masonry and needs millions of dollars in work to remain viable. This is a striking building and I do hope it will be saved from the wrecking ball. I will be following the fate of this block.