Tierrabyte: Millennial Populations Ebb, Flow with Walkability

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Hundreds celebrated the Red, White, and Blues celebration at Pearl.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

The mixed-use Pearl development north of downtown is one of several areas attracting millennials in San Antonio.

Millennial populations in San Antonio are growing in activity centers and suburban neighborhoods southeast of the city, but falling near military bases and on much of the Northside, recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows.

San Antonio’s millennial population growth ranks second in the nation, a recent study by the Brookings Institute found. Millennials are considered by some academics and urban planners to be leaders of the so-called “great inversion,” or the exodus of young adults from suburban neighborhoods to downtown centers.

Though San Antonio’s millennial population is the second-fastest-growing nationally, millennials in the Alamo City aren’t showing the same patterns of population growth as those in other cities.

An analysis of American Community Survey data by the Rivard Report found that in addition to moving from suburbs into the downtown core, many of San Antonio’s millennials are moving to a handful of planned developments scattered around downtown as well as several suburban neighborhoods on the Southeast side.

The growth of millennial populations between 2012 and 2016 was greatest for San Antonio zip codes containing the Pearl (23.8 percent), Brooks (16.6 percent), and UTSA’s main campus on the Northside (5.6 percent), according to the data.

Neighborhoods that lost the most millennials over the same time period were near major military bases, including Government Hill (-8.9 percent), 78752 near Lackland Air Force Base (-7.9 percent), and 78257, which includes the Dominion and Camp Bullis (-3.1 percent).

In the visualization below, hover over different zip codes to learn more about the growth or decline of the millennial population for that area. Percentages reflect the percent change in population of young adults between the ages of 20 and 34.

Hotspots for millennial population growth included areas near the Medical Center and La Cantera in addition to several Southside neighborhoods.

Southeast neighborhoods like Highland Park and Hot Wells saw significant growth of their young adult populations. The 78222 zip code, at Rigsby Avenue and Southeast Loop 410, saw the third-largest growth of millennials citywide, increasing by more than five percent.

Brooks attracted the second-greatest growth of millennials in Bexar County since 2012, the data shows. The mixed-use development which bills itself as “a dynamic community … ripe with opportunity,” according to its website, was built on a decommissioned U.S. Air Force Base.

Whether that growth can be sustained depends in part on walkability, said Mike Price, a millennial who after living at Brooks for two years, is planning to relocate downtown in the fall.

Price, 34, is a web developer who moved to the Southside because it was cheaper and closer to family and friends. “But I realize now that it’s cheaper for a reason,” he said.

“It’s not very walkable around here. You still have to have a car to get around … though Brooks is working on that.”

“Walking is the cheapest, healthiest, and most widely accessible mode of transportation,” said Erika Ragsdale, planning coordinator for the City of San Antonio. Ragsdale, 29, resides in King William.

“Yet we have designed our built environment in such a way that walkability is considered an amenity, and is often tied to higher property values and rents,” she said.

Regional centers like Brooks also require multi-modal transportation strategies to connect them “for people to truly get around,” Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) said.

Regional Centers are areas of employment and development outside the city center, as described by the City’s comprehensive plan, SA Tomorrow. The plan identifies Brooks, the Medical Center, Stone Oak, and 10 others areas as regional centers.

“Downtown is the most mature regional center the city has. It has all the elements for a millennial to be comfortable,” Treviño said. “These other regional centers need a lot of similar elements.”

Although new recreational and commercial developments at Brooks, such as Greenline Park, Southerleigh Brewing Company, and several new restaurants may improve the walkability of the neighborhood, Price said he still feels that the lack of connectivity between Brooks and other parts of the city prevent him from participating in events downtown, and led to his decision to move.

“Walkability is convenient. For example, with the Final Four downtown – being [at Brooks], I don’t want to get into my car, fight traffic, and all that nonsense,” he said.

“I’m staying away from downtown this weekend because of all those factors.”

7 thoughts on “Tierrabyte: Millennial Populations Ebb, Flow with Walkability

  1. As an early millennial, I totally agree. We like where we live because there is lots of room to walk around as exercise, but it’s not accessible to work/store/etc. by walking.

    If I weren’t committed to nonprofit work, I’d definitely be moving somewhere near the urban core.

    • But isn’t that the most messed up thing about it? A place where you don’t have to walk around much and be accessible to the work place or storefront should have been not just affordable from the start, but literally rule number one in urban planing.

  2. There is no doubt in my mind that walkability is and should be a factor in where people decide to live. Once you have that “luxury” you realize why it is so desirable. The reason I put it in quotes is so few people have the option for walkability because our zoning code for development since the post WWII building boom has restricted the construction of walkable communities. The reality is large neighborhoods were built where the zoning was limited to single family only. Commercial zones were relegated to high traffic roadways thereby leaving the walkability unsafe at the very least and disconnected at best. Only recently have urban planners began implementing zoning changes that encourage potentially walkable neighborhoods. However, the irony is neighborhoods are the groups who tend to resist this change the most. I would say often times they do not realize the unintended consequences of their position. And by the way, this does not apply only to millenials, I believe the whole spectrum of consumers by age and demographic would appreciate a little more walkability in their community.

  3. Hi, is there a way a low income millennial can bring in some sort of input to this topic? Because bringing one person into the limelight doesn’t really show what exactly we want out of a city and most of us are living with different circumstances. For example, I’m a online student to a University who’s campus is outside the state, I’m unemployed, and live with my parents. And I am also planing on moving out to the Seattle Area. Plus I don’t think it’s a “Great Inversion” but more like an Intervention. Anyways, my point being is that I don’t think you can get much data by one person who in one field of the Tech community or any other community for that mater, let alone any insight to what we want or prefer.

    • Just look at the money developers are spending in the downtown core. Any new apartment/condo/townhome going up around the Pearl or Southtown is full of millennials. Also, there are a lot of emtpy nesters moving into new housing being built in and around downtown to prove David’s point. I’d say about 50% of the people living in my condo building on SoFlo are millennials and 25% empty nesters.

  4. I’m curious to see the data that shows Highland Park and Hot Wells as having population growth for millennial residents, seeing as the overall zip code data shows the larger area as flat for this growth. Where could I find the census tract data for those neighborhoods? I looked on the Census.gov site but it is way too confusing for me to make since of.

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