Young professionals key to downtown residential development

Cities are wooing young, educated professionals as a key to their downtown redevelopment plans.

The young and the restless” is what a new report from think tank City Observatory calls these 25- to 34-year-olds with at least a bachelor’s degree.

The nation’s 51 biggest metro areas — all except Detroit — have gained young talent, either from net migration in or from new college graduates who stay, the report says.


“It’s a type of growth that feeds on itself — the more young workers you have, the more companies are interested in locating their operations in that area and the more young people are going to move there,” Enrico Moretti, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of “The New Geography of Jobs,” told The New York Times.

These young professionals, who tend to be unsettled in their jobs and relationships, are more likely than previous generations to choose to live in close-in urban neighborhoods.

They’re “looking for places that were interesting, diverse, dense, walkable, bikeable and well-served by transit,” the report states.

It’s a big demographic at the RiverPark Place apartments.

“We’re some of the only people here who don’t come home in scrubs,” renter Ralph Ross said, noting that many of his neighbors work in the downtown hospitals.

At the same time, developer Steve Poe said he’d been surprised by the 50-plus crowd’s interest in living downtown as well.

That’s a key demographic for the planned 13-story luxury condo tower at RiverPark Place.“They want to be down here where there’s energy and excitement,” he said. “One thing we know is that they don’t want to feel old.”

There’s a robust high-end rental market as well as the lower end, according to Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. It noted in its 2014 report that the highest-income households accounted for nearly as large a share (23 percent) in rental growth as lowest-income households.

In Nashville, considered one of the most successful cities in downtown revitalization, 32 percent of its downtown residents are age 33 and under; 29 percent 34-39; and 35 percent age 50-67, according to the Nashville Downtown Partnership’s annual survey.

Fifty-two percent of downtown residents polled have a college education and an additional 36 percent hold postgraduate degrees.

Seventy-eight percent of downtown households earn more than $60,000 a year; 47 percent earn more than $100,000, and 25 percent earn more $150,000. Three percent earn less than $20,000 annually.

At the same time, Greater Louisville Inc.’s economic strategy report Advantage Louisville, noted Louisville’s gains, but also its challenges. It noted that 25.5 percent of Louisville residents overall hold at least a bachelor’s degree, compared with the national average of 28.5 percent.

“Greater Louisville is at a significant disadvantage in terms of educational attainment relative to its competitors, but it is gaining ground and improving faster than the competition,” the report states.

“Without a strategic combination of more in-migration of educated adults and an amplified number of post-secondary graduates retained in the region, Greater Louisville will become increasingly less attractive for quality, skilled technical and professional jobs.”

And it noted comments such as this one from its survey respondents:

“I recently moved back home from Chicago and was unable to find any decent apartments for rent near downtown that weren’t either a studio or a penthouse. Options in between are needed for young professionals.”