Written by | Madeleine Alderman
As a millennial, I will say that like other cities, Richmond is experiencing the phenomenon that is the millennial. We are the personification of the technological era and as such we’re fearless and creative, driven by untethered passion that, qualitatively, previous generations have rejected. As of 2015 we became the largest generation segment in the workforce and that percentage is projected to increase through 2025.
We millennials are all too often misunderstood. A simple internet search of the term will provide you with words such as “narcissistic,” “entitled,” and “lazy.” It’s said that we value the instant gratification that technology has given us and therefore find the professional workplace difficult to understand or fit into. But how is it possible to qualify 80 million people?
The only thing that can truly classify us is that we are young, and popular opinion isn’t going to change the fact that we will be assuming the place of the generational segments before us. Corporate leaders are beginning to take advantage of the opportunity to understand new young hires, to guide them, and to value them for the unique strengths they bring to the table: their open mindedness, authenticity, innovativeness, individualism. If corporate America, which changes course about as nimbly as a glacier, is responding to the millennial effect, why has commercial real estate not yet caught on?
Richmond’s commercial market is in a pivotal place right now. Developers and investors have the opportunity to heavily cater their projects to younger generations. Unlike our parents, we don’t remember the factory and warehouse wasteland that was Manchester. We remember driving through Scott’s Addition, maybe on our way to the Science Museum of Virginia for a field trip, and thinking nothing special of the area. And many of us may have never set foot in the Bottom unless on our way to an outdoors camp on Belle Isle.
It’s hard for me to imagine living in these neighborhoods 20 years ago. It’s taken pioneering developers time to get them to where they are now and they still have a ways to go.
Millennials value redevelopment and what is so unique about Richmond is that the youth here appreciate the historic character of the city. They want to see something that is beautifully redone yet retains the character of the building.
Here are some guidelines on what this millennial, and many of her peers, seek in their domicile:
- Open Floor Plan: Being able to imagine a space that’s suitable to our taste is much easier with a simple open studio apartment. While some of us may prefer a door to our bedroom, the concept of having open living space that’s inclusive of our kitchen and living area makes for a more customizable set-up.
- Customization: Following open concept, being able to customize our space is also desirable and something we’d love to have the option of doing both in our living space, but also our commercial spaces. This can explain the creative office space trend that has taken off in the City of Richmond. Whether it’s our first home and we’re able to work more closely with the developer to make it something unique, or an office/retail space we build out ourselves, it’s all a part of our creative and entrepreneurial spirit.
- Adaptive Reuse: It comes in all shapes and sizes. Some of us want to live in an old tobacco warehouse, some of us want to be in an early 20th century row home that’s been completely updated. Whatever our taste, the majority of us appreciate the bare minimum of structural changes. Keep the exposed brick or old structural beam exposed. It’s edgy and we love it. Plus, in 20 years it will be easy to convert the space into something different!
- Walkability/Bike-ability: Convenience is huge, and having to hop in the car to pick up groceries or meet friends is bad for the environment (yes, we care a lot about the future of the planet because we still have an average of 60+ years on it) and is an inconvenience (finding parking, grinding through city traffic, etc.). Having our amenities all within a short walk is a huge selling point. We want to be where the action is!
- Space: Storage is as important to us as it is to anyone else. Maybe more so because the River City has a wide array of equipment-intensive activities available to its residents and millennials like the great outdoors. Having somewhere to store our bikes, kayaks, tennis rackets and golf clubs in our small city apartments is a necessity.
What’s great about a city like Richmond is that we have adaptive reuse opportunities on every corner. Developers and investors in the City who choose to actively listen to what is currently being demanded are going to benefit greatly in the long run financially. We will pay for a nicer commercial space or apartment because we value history, quality workmanship, and style.
Understanding the needs of this city is the first step in being able to take advantage of those opportunities, and millennials play an integral role in narrating those demands. The good news? We’re really not that hard to understand! And if you can get even a slight grasp on the most important lifestyle trends of our generation, the investment will definitely pay off.