What millennials want–and why Spokane should cater to them

Walkability can help make or break a city as a vital, energetic, and vibrant place to live, according to the millennials that Spokane needs to attract. So why do we keep investing in policies created by Baby Boomers? (PHOTO: BethesdaNow.com)

We’re always saying that in order to succeed, Spokane needs to take time and energy to attract a key demographic: young, urban professionals. But what does it take to do that?

Millennials are markedly different from their parents in a number of ways, from dress to music to cultural attitudes. But perhaps most tellingly, millennials desire different things from their homes. Where the Baby Boomers originally valued safe, affordable homes in the suburbs, research reveals that more and more millennials wish to live in the type of mixed-use communities that Spokane needs to succeed. According to new data reported by The Atlantic CityLab, these young people are primarily concerned with four issues: walkability, good schools and parks, excellent public transportation, and new technology.

Sound familiar? We’ve been advocating these causes for months.

Unfortunately, it seems that Spokane currently caters more toward Baby Boomers than to Millennials. Our development policies favor large, suburban tracts on the urban fringe, as opposed to live-work communities like Kendall Yards. Public transportation and bicyclists constantly deal with the scorn of those who believe more money should be spent on roads. And while our schools continue to improve, they are not making the type of calculated investments needed to take area education to the next level.

So let’s invest. Let’s build a streetcar, a trolley, a light rail. Let’s improve our bike lanes, our crosswalks, our pedestrian trails. Let’s incentivize infill, and work with developers to craft creative plans for increasing density. Let’s make sure our schools have the proper tools to teach, from smaller class sizes to new curricula and learning methodologies. Let’s bring entrepreneurship and innovation to the high schools, the middle schools, and even the elementary schools, encouraging students and fostering a culture of creativity. Let’s improve Riverfront Park, adding new features for accessibility and new community gathering places under the Pavilion. Let’s create a city-wide fiber-to-the-home initiative, bolstered by the local business community. These investments have tangible returns and have proven to show real-world results. With them, we could become the number one city in the country for millennials. Seriously. Let’s take some time to make this happen.

Investment first. Then returns. That should be the strategy moving forward.

What do you think? What could the Spokane area be doing to attract more millennials? How do you think our policies line up with the perspectives of millennials? How could we become the #1 city in America for millennials? Share your thoughts on Facebook, on Twitter, in the comments below, or in person. We love to hear from you.


7 thoughts on “What millennials want–and why Spokane should cater to them

  1. I completely agree. It’s been a bummer to see what has happened with Kendall Yards. They had an opportunity to really make a cool urban feeling community, but it has turned out to be more of a downtown suburb/retirement community. The price of the apartments and homes is just too high for most people in their 20’s who wish to be downtown. I love seeing people move from the subs to downtown, but like you said, I don’t think that’s what the target should be. Maybe with the rest of the development they can make some more affordable mixed use.

  2. I’m a millennial who is looking to move closer to the city core. I want to walk to restaurants/bars, and be a part of the change we want to see in our city. Looking in Browne’s Addition, Peaceful Valley, Lower South Hill (seems sketch), and just north of the river (also sketch). Finding a place that is affordable and feels safe is difficult. Any suggestions on where I should look?

    • It depends a lot on your budget.

      I’d say your best bet would be somewhere in Browne’s Addition or on the lower South Hill around Huckleberry’s. Both of those areas aren’t nearly as sketchy as they seem. Lots of young people. In downtown proper, a number of projects are underway that promise low rents and efficient living. The Bickett was recently completed on the East End in a beautiful remodeled brick building, and the Ridpath Club Apartments will be underway soon with extremely low ($400-$1000 rents).

      If your budget is a bit larger, you can’t go wrong with Kendall Yards. Beautiful, amazing, and directly on the Centennial Trail. Hopefully more apartments will come online on the North Bank as well in the next few months.

  3. I agree. I’d like to see the unfortunate mind set of many in this community change. I’d love to see something like the Highline in NYC here in concept. I’m closer to boomer than millennial but would love to see the city grow in that direction. Strong urban with great shops/markets without insane pricing. Butchers, bakers, cheesemongers, wine, greengrocer. and all walkable.

  4. If the neighborhoods adjacent to downtown feel sketchy, one might want to reevaluate one’s interest in moving closer to the core. I don’t know what city “citydweller” dwells in, but Spokane’s central neighborhoods are pretty typical, speaking as a resident of said neighborhoods for 15 years. Despite peer pressure, maybe it’s just not for you. No crime in that.


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