Though generation X was the first generation to embrace the world wide web, the 90’s were a time of desktop computers, dial up connections and brick phones. Millenials, alternatively, are native users in the deepest sense- they were born into the age of the internet, molded by it and thus live a truly ‘connected’ life. They are using wi-fi, smartphones, tablets and laptops for both business and personal use. As the internet has become more accessible the line between work and play has blurred. Now, everyone is always potentially working and –the ‘office’ no longer refers to a physical space to do work but rather a platform for connectivity. Living in a post-industrial age – the innovation economy brought on by the creative class- they’re work is their life and their lives their work. This group of young professionals are tuned in and turned on 24/7.
This means that the old way of structuring time and space is no longer working for them. ‘9-5’ is a foreign concept. Instead, they would rather live ’18-hours’ –referencing the ’18 Hour City’ model for a live/work/play environment. What does this mean for commercial office leasing? Tenants, in order to recruit and retain the next generation of talent, must follow the trend of becoming ‘untethered’ from traditional office space and its implied usage. There is a need then for space that converts easily, and is engaging and affordable to boot. Traditional office environments are structured for ‘me’ space- private offices and designated conference rooms come to mind. Instead the new generation of office users are looking for ‘we’ space- collaboration corners, kitchen space instead of a break room, dry erase walls that invite idea-building and a smaller footprint per person.
What are they looking for when choosing a city? It’s happening in cities big and small across the United States. Typically, they find themselves in places with great food, great bars, great transportation, dense urban cores, and job growth. They look for cities that have embraced public space as creative space. Activating streetscapes, scaled for walkability, a sense of place that embraces its own character and uniqueness in a world of cookie cutter places and things. Often they move to areas where there is an agglomeration of arts, foodie culture and entertainment nearby. They salivate for the genuine and organic- not just in the foods they eat and the clothes they wear but in the places they live and visit.
These young professionals are looking for a sense of community connectedness-they have it digitally and now they want it physically. This is a generation raised on collaboration and teamwork and therefore are looking for cities that embrace that ideology!
They are interested in the “REAL real”, that is, they aren’t interested in the sales pitch a city offers, but they are looking for depth and substance. Somewhere they can dig in and put roots. They are slow in their decisions – discerning and data focused and so far they have taken a long time to settle down.
So, how will you get them to your city? Downtowns need to focus on creating an urban outdoor living room- seating, safe pathways, entertainment zones and interesting street activations along the way. As people look to utilize space differently they will be looking to cities and developers to provide amenity rich avenues between walkable zones in 24/7 urban communities. Those millennials who will eventually move towards and into the suburbs will expect and demand similar amenities- bike paths, safe streets, coffee houses nearby, good schools, tech advanced homes and outdoor spaces and affordable living in a smaller footprint.