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A New Kind of Urban – Affordable, Active and Alive!

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by Beth Heller

This month’s focus on civic connection doesn’t limit public engagement to activities like voting or running for public office.  This week we’re taking a look at the importance of economic revitalization, and at Live54218 we have our eye on an important trend:  affordable urban lifestyles.

Jennifer Griffin outlines the affordable urban lifestyle trend in a fabulous blog post on a website we highly suggest you bookmark, Strongtowns.org.  In her piece, Griffin shares a few profound facts about the next generation of civic engagers, the Millennials, born between 1982-2002.  Survey data shows that 62% of Millenials have an average of $27,000 in student debt, 50% of this generation are renters and 21% still live with their parents.  By contract, a generation ago in 1980, just 9% of college graduates lived at home, and first-home purchases were made by young couples or families carrying little or no student debt.  For that same 1980’s generation, the median price of a new home was just $120,000.

So what does any of this have to do with the Greater Green Bay Area?   While they may have more debt and less initial purchasing power out of the gate, Millennials are finding their footing.  As a whole, they are comfortable with flexible and creative living arrangements that allow for affordability. They also value active living, sustainability, and mixed-use urban environments that support a fluid mix of work, culture, family and play.  While many may dream of living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn or Chicago’s Wicker Park, starter homes in those areas easily range $500,000-$1.5 million and rent starts at $3,000 per month. By contrast, we can make a strong argument that an apartment or duplex in downtown Green Bay or De Pere, with access to the Fox River Trail  and a walkable business district with yoga studios and yummy food, has a new, entirely appealing, curb appeal. We’ve got the real estate, now we’ve just got to deliver on the “vibe.” And, thanks to the amazing work of revitalization groups like Downtown Green Bay, On Broadway, Military Avenue Business Association and Definitely De Pere, this neo-urban ethos is getting stronger by the day.   These groups not only collect and curate the goings-on in our business districts, they encourage civic participation by helping residents “own” the cultural and community events in their neighborhoods.  When communities plug-in and share, cultural capital increases exponentially.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve done in your downtown lately?  Share it with us here.

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