Millennials, Cafe Culture and New Urbanism

The Florida Times-Union opinion piece “Huge changes likely to revive the nation’s core cities” on the trend of “new urbanism” does an excellent job shining a light onto a nationwide trend taking root in Jacksonville.

“For generations, families that were moving up also moved away from downtown.

Now it appears that trend is reversing in a way that spells a renaissance for American central cities.

Author Alan Ehrenhalt calls it ‘The Great Inversion.’ That’s the opening title of his new book, “The Great Inversion and the Future of the American City.”

Ehrenhalt doesn’t see the suburbs disappearing. But he does see strong reasons why young people and many boomers are gravitating to the excitement and vitality of core cities.”

Trends like new urbanism are a key topic among members of the International Downtown Association. Having had the chance this month to spend time with more than 700 Downtown and Central Business District practitioners at the International Downtown Association’s World Congress in New York City, DVI’s Terry Lorince elaborated on some of the trends learned on First Coast Connect.

first_coast_connect_logo_01Listen to the full interview here, beginning at 29:05 minute mark.

Traffic lane reclaimed for pedestrians in Midtown Manhattan.

Here are some key takeaways learned in New York. Young and budding professionals in the Millennial generation overwhelming favor a walkable, active and authentic lifestyle afforded by downtowns. Seventy-seven percent of millennials prefer to live in an urban environment. And studies show that more than 53 percent of 16 to 21-year-olds don’t have driver’s licenses. Unlike previous generations, Millennials value mass transit and bikeable and walkable neighborhoods, like Downtown.

Attracting human capital, such as young professionals, takes a vibrant urban vibe. Activating Downtown is key to attracting more businesses, residents and foot traffic. In the long term, the goal is to reduce vacancies Downtown. In the short term, however, it will take more events and activities to bring people Downtown. Creating things like a strong café culture and plentiful bike paths can be done incrementally.

For example, a key challenge for New York City is combating congestion. However, instead of costly infrastructure improvements, the city is reclaiming traffic lanes to create room for pedestrians to linger, socialize and ride bikes. Learning from the successes – and mistakes – of other cities is key in Downtown revitalization efforts, but the easiest take away is this: just try something. If it doesn’t quite work, learn what you can and try something new. It’s thanks to trials and errors like this that you can now enjoy a cup of coffee right in the streets of New York City, and that’s pretty neat.