Moderator: Yolanda Cole, Sr. Principal Hickok Cole Architects
Panelists: Mildred Warner, Professor, Department of City and Regional Planning, Cornell University; Sarah Snider Komppa, Architect and Planner, Tryba Architects, Dener, Colorado; and Vicki Davis, President, Urban Atlantic, Washington, DC
You’ve heard a lot about Millennials – about their collaborative approach to work, their search for authenticity and about their preferences for great food and city living. We have built thousands of apartment units and expanded entertainment options, and they just keep coming. But who is talking about what happens when they grow up and form families? At the ULI Trends conference, a panel lead by Yolanda Cole of Hickok Cole Architects, tackled the issue head on. Mildred Warner, professor of city planning at Cornell University made a strong economic case for keeping families in the city; Sarah Komppa, Denver architect and millennial, showed how parents are taking charge and changing cities across the country from the bottom up; and our own Vicki Davis of Urban Atlantic demonstrated that it is possible to build family-sized units and make a profit.
While most city planners across the country believe that families cost more to support and therefore enact policies that discourage retention of families, Mildred provided cross-country data showing that families with children make more and spend more over the long run, disbursing 77% of their income to local economies. While she concedes that families cost more in the school-age years, this trend bottoms out and stays steady until retirement age, when federal and state government expenditures rise dramatically. She contends that if we focus on building cities for children, we are building cities for all, linking design and services that benefit both ends of the spectrum. Please visit http://www.mildredwarner.org/warner/ to find her research on planning family-friendly communities and building cities for all generations.
Sarah Komppa followed up with her research on families in the city as an outgrowth of her AIA Scholarship on the subject. She visited and studied 11 cities around the country and identified 6 reasons why cities should work to keep families. Like, Mildred, she concluded that a city for families is a city for all: it provides a more sustainable energy use model, promotes healthy habits, addresses changing demographics, reduces overall cost of living, and increases social and civic life. She also identified trends in her travels: organized parents are changing cities, education is key for the middle class, land use economics is a close second, and the right-of-way in not just for cars anymore. For more detailed information on what’s happening around the country, you can purchase her publication, Downtown Families, at http://blur.by/1ylZEbe.
The panel presentation was concluded by a case study, presented by Vicki Davis, President of Urban Atlantic, on Rhode Island Row, a wildly successful mixed-use affordable housing project developed at the Rhode Island Metro. Vicki stated that because site development was constrained by the number of units rather than density, they intentionally built larger than market units and a higher percentage of 2 and 3 bedroom units. Resident statistics show that income peaks at around $60,000, but approximately 10% earn above $100,000. Resident demographic profile is predominantly age 19-40, with the largest group being between 26-30. While more than half of residents have roommates, Vicki says she is seeing more families in the building. Over time she has seen car ownership drop, with the large majority of residents favoring public transportation. Vicki believes that developers often “look in the rear view mirror” for guidance on the next development, and that we should all start looking forward to accommodating millennials as they age and from families. For more on her work, please visit http://www.urban-atlantic.com/.
There’s no doubt about it, they’re coming! But are we going to be prepared for the Pro-Creative class? Yolanda is passionate about life-long urban living and is spear-heading a research project with ULI on how to keep families in the city. The project will kick-off with an inside the beltway survey of Millennials, due to launch shortly. Results will be presented at a ULI event in the fall. Yolanda has also conducted a focus group with participants from ULI’s Young Leader’s Group and has formed a Task Force to follow up on the opportunities, barriers and potential solutions to support and house families in the city. Stay tuned for further developments! If you have information to contribute or would like to join the movement, please contact Yolanda at email@example.com and use the subject line “Families in the City.”