Scott Ball / Rivard Report
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.”