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Downtown revitalization in the era of millennials: how developer perceptions of millennial market demands are shaping urban landscapes

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Downtown Phoenix and Houston are changing. They are not dense, historic downtowns; instead, they reflect contemporary downtown growth in sprawling cities. Both cities have reimagined their downtowns, leveraging vacant land, new construction, and infill projects. Through this process, developers are shaping downtown in response to market demand. This research explores how developers in two Sun Belt cities are thinking about Millennials and cementing their preferences into rapidly changing downtowns. We triangulate data from the U.S. Census, regional media, and interviews with 22 downtown development experts. We find developers respond to Millennial preferences in several ways. They are endowing their downtown projects with a greater sense of place and diversity of activities. However, there is a social cost: underlying concerns include rising housing costs and gentrification in the downtowns and reduced demand for housing in the suburbs, particularly if Millennials elect to stay downtown for the long term.
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Keywords: Millennial migration; Urban revitalization; affordable housing; centralization; downtown revitalization

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA 2: Current Planning Program, City of Flagstaff, AZ, USA

Publication date: January 2, 2020

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