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ULI Panel: Building to Meet the Millennials

Tim Relyea

Tim Relyea

HOUSTON – Real estate is bending and evolving to be attractive and relevant to the massive millennial generation, according to experts at an Urban Land Institute panel discussion.

But while seeking to meet the millennial market, developers need to exercise caution when building new projects today. Being too experimental with millennial-focused trends can make a building unappealing to future tenants, says Houston office veteran Tim Relyea, executive vice chairman of Cushman & Wakefield.

Office space with open floor plans designed to encourage collaboration and innovation is being delivered in new buildings today to appeal to millennials.

Relyea told the ULI audience in Houston on Wednesday that he’s seen some new millennial-targeted office space that is “un-subleasable” because it’s too odd to appeal to mainstream firms later on.

“I’m starting to see that it can cause problems,” Relyea says. “It can be painful if it’s not done right.”

Another ULI panelist, Midway CEO Jonathan Brinsden, says his firm, which is a leader in developing mixed-use projects, said Midway builds projects to appeal to a broad range of the population. A sizable real estate development cannot be focused on only one demographic band.

Brinsden notes that millennials are attracted to urban life, which offers walkable environments and culture-filled amenities. They tend to want “experiential” shopping.

However, some aspects of urban life are being replicated in the suburbs, he notes.

Millennials, as they age and have families, grapple with the conflict of moving to suburbia for schools and housing affordability.

One of the younger panelists, Anna Autin of Hines, says many of her peers who live in the Inner Loop have had children in recent months and many of them – but not all – are electing to move to suburban Houston.

The nation’s 80 million millennials were born between 1978 and 1995 and are a big demographic force that rivals the Baby Boomers. The ULI event, which was moderated by Lisa Gray of the Houston Chronicle, featured several Millennials.

Kathleen Carey, chief content officer of the ULI in Washington, says many of the millennials select and move to a city first for lifestyle reasons, before they even have jobs.

Carey calls the even younger generation – children and teens who were born before 1995 – the “Generation i.” The “i” relates to the iphone or ipad. It will be the first generation that was born into a society that is immersed in Internet connectivity.

Dec. 17, 2015

By Ralph Bivins, Editor of Realty News Report

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