If you ask people “where do millennials live?” they’ll probably answer with a snarky joke: in their parents’ basements because they have no ambition; in the hipster coffee shop that serves cold brew out of a Chemex. In truth, of course, millennials live everywhere — on rural farms, on gently curving suburban streets, in urban lofts or brownstones, in generic apartment complexes across the nation. Yet according to property managers, realtors and other experts, more and more millennials are moving to big cities.
Not only that, but they’re eschewing the traditionally hip locales of NYC, LA, Boston, San Francisco and Miami in favor of cities that don’t get as much attention, but which still have plenty to offer for the 20-35 set. These up-and-coming millennial hotspots include Milwaukee, Memphis, Denver, Austin (with fully 24% more millennials than the national average!), Detroit, Buffalo, and Pittsburgh. Such urban areas offer all the amenities millennials want — good restaurants, coffee shops, bars and breweries (many of which are owned by their peers); thriving cultural and arts scenes; diversity — without the high costs of living traditionally associated with big-city life.
It used to be that in order to get a job in finance or publishing, you had to move to the NYC metro area; if you were interested in tech, it was Silicon Valley or bust. Now, with the rise of telecommuting as a viable option, made viable in part because of high-speed internet and the connectivity provided by mobile devices, it doesn’t matter as much where you live. Millennials are also less likely than their predecessors to accept the inevitability of a corporate job. They may work in an office setting, but unlike their parents and grandparents, they don’t plan on working there for 50 years before retiring with a gold watch. Instead, they job-hop, job-create, and innovate their own careers in a way the American economy has never seen before. And they do it wherever they please.
Another characteristic of young professionals (or creatives) is their rejection of the white-picket-fence dream to which forebears aspired. Home ownership is less important to millennials, as are the other milestones of adulthood: car ownership, marriage, children. While many millennials say they do want these things eventually, they’re happy to defer such commitment while they pursue entrepreneurship or simply a carefree, single life. This means that more millennials are moving to, and staying in, large urban areas, rather than heading out to the ‘burbs to raise a family.
So where do millennials live? Let’s take a look at one city in particular and why it appeals to this population. Denver, Colorado, with some 682,545 residents in 2015, was the fastest-growing American city in that year. In 2016, it was named the country’s best place to live by U.S. News and World Report. Due to its relatively flat terrain, Denver earns a Bike Score of 71 (“very bikeable”) with slightly lower scores for walkability and public transit. Being able to commute, shop, and visit friends without owning their own vehicle is an important value to millennials.
Additionally, Denver is a great place to live for folks who like to spend time outdoors. The nearby mountains offer opportunities for skiing and snowboarding in the winter, and hiking, camping, and kayaking come summertime. Millennials who like to enjoy the outdoors without being quite so active can still bask in the city’s relatively temperate four seasons by visiting one of the city’s over 200 parks, including the 314-acre City Park.
Denver is also a fairly liberal city, whose residents skew Democratic. It was the first major city in the U.S. to legalize the private possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, in 2005; seven years later, the state itself legalized the sale of marijuana for recreational use. Denver has a diverse population, with nearly a third of its residents self-identifying as Latin or Hispanic. It has one of the country’s highest populations of Mexican-Americans, a statistic that is reflected in the many Tex-Mex and New Mexican restaurants and food trucks. Additionally, Denver is nearly synonymous with brewing. It is, of course, the home of Coors, as well as New Belgium Brewing, but perhaps even more important to craft-beer-loving millennials, the city boasts over 200 unique breweries, many of which are located within or adjacent to bars or restaurant-bars. It’s no wonder they call Denver “the Napa valley of beer.”
The average cost of renting an apartment in Denver is about $1550 per month, and a recent article in the Denver Post predicts that apartment rental costs will likely drop in 2017, while the price of a single-family home will increase; this, of course, creates a renters’ market for millennials. If you own a property management company in Denver, you’ll want to adjust your offerings accordingly. And if you’re a millennial who loves biking, beer, and the ability to enjoy the outdoors, you may want to consider relocating to Denver.