A big trend in urban real estate is coming to small towns, to create a new opportunity to retain more young people.
Young real estate buyers have made an epic shift, away from big suburban homes, and toward smaller spaces in walkable neighborhoods. I read about this first in Grist: Millennials not looking for McMansions (unless they have to move back in with the parents). I asked Tulsa real estate agent Lori Cain about it, and she confirmed that Tulsa sees this trend, too.
Small towns have an abundance of unused downtown space. Look upstairs in any rural downtown, and the resources are there.
This past week, I tested this idea with my 17 year old nephew. He was enthralled with the idea of cool downtown apartments in our hometown.
Codes and zoning can be a big barrier to this. At the Revitalize Washington conference, I heard how a single apartment project required installing expensive sprinklers. That meant a new, larger service line under the street and sidewalk at the owner’s expense. That lead to upgrading the fire hydrant spacing, paid for by the new owners. The list went on, in dizzying ways.
Can anything be done? Possibly. Washington was beginning to explore changing state laws to allow alternative codes. Alternative codes for historic properties and reuse of existing downtowns also exist, and may be adaptable by your municipal government.
It’s a bit of a daunting challenge. But there is great entrepreneurial potential in creating the cool downtown housing younger residents want.
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