Urban living: Thinking outside the suburban box

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Why are people moving downtown? Proximity to local dining options and arts and culture venues are a few reasons there are more people than ever interested in core district housing.

Residents thinking about urban living should also consider the benefits of walking more, driving less, having neighborhood restaurants become your dining room, and area venues and events serve as your living room. We’ve learned from young professionals, empty nesters and others who enjoy the urban or minimalist lifestyle that all it took is thinking outside of their suburban box.

The latest comprehensive housing needs report by Maxfield Research & Consulting, commissioned annually by the City of Cedar Rapids; projected population growth rates in core districts will outpace the rest of the city. In particular, flood-affected areas in Cedar Rapids will experience a 9.5 percent jump or 1,606 additional residents by 2020. The report also determined there is significant demand for downtown housing options of all types, but most notably market rate rental and owner-occupied options.

These figures and the more than 100 new units coming online in 2017 represent the demand for continued housing developments in the downtown and surrounding core districts. As co-chairs of the Downtown Housing Working Group, we aim to collaborate to bring those facts of housing demand to life. The Downtown Housing Working Group is made up of housing developers and property managers with units in the downtown area that meet throughout the year to discuss current and upcoming housing projects as well as the needs and trends of housing in the Cedar Rapids downtown and surrounding core districts.

The group works closely with the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance to showcase to the public new developments and available housing options during the annual Urban Living event. This year’s event is on May 16 from 5:00 — 7 p.m. at the Eastbank Venue + Lounge and is free to attend.

As collaboration and communication around downtown housing is a primary goal of the Working Group, it aligns perfectly with the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance’s core function of community development. There’s an exciting energy surging through our community as historic cultural attractions thrive, unique restaurants and fantastically modern spaces blossom, and neighborhoods are renewed. In addition, having a strong inventory of urban living options and amenities makes our community more competitive in attracting workforce and retaining retirees.

The comprehensive housing report illustrates the impact that Millennials and Boomers will have in the coming years. From 2016 estimates to 2021 projections, the largest population by age will be those age 20 to 44, making up 34 percent of the total. The population age 65 and older will see the most rapid growth, making up 56 percent of the increase. During that same time, the population growth for ages 45 to 64 will be only 2 percent and this segment will dip below a quarter of the population total. Young professionals and Millennials as well as empty nesters and Boomers are defining our changing demographics. It really is a tale of two generations that will drive demand and trends in the years ahead. Anecdotally, these are exactly the renters and buyers the Downtown Housing Working Group sees pursuing urban living options in Cedar Rapids today.

To learn more, review the Maxfield Study on the City of Cedar Rapids website and visit cedarrapids.org to register for Urban Living and to find an interactive housing map of residential options.

• Casey Prince, Scott Olson and Craig Byers are co-chairs of the Downtown Housing Working Group in Cedar Rapids.

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