Viewpoints

Empty nesters to urban nesters: baby boomers follow their children to the city

Tara McElroy moved to Charlotte, N.C., after graduating from Clemson University in 2004. While her first home was in south Charlotte, she soon realized that living in an urban neighborhood might better fit her lifestyle, and a few months later she moved to the Fourth Ward neighborhood within Uptown Charlotte. Fourth Ward blends restored 100-plus-year-old Victorian homes with luxury condominiums, urban apartments, parks and businesses. It is one of several neighborhoods unique to Uptown Charlotte that lends itself to unique urban living for droves of Gen Y Charlotteans who have moved here for jobs in nearby skyscrapers.

During trips to visit Tara while she was in school, her mother Eileen fell in love with the Carolinas. “Once Tara moved to Charlotte, I began receiving notes in the mail stating it was ‘time to move!’” Eileen said. “She didn't really have to push too hard. I had come down to help her settle into her new place and immediately found Charlotte as fascinating as it is beautiful.” Today, mother and daughter live just three blocks away from each other in Fourth Ward.

There is no question that Charlotte is experiencing a population boom among young professionals. Our Center City (which includes the central business district for Charlotte – Uptown – and the surrounding neighborhoods) has experienced a 219-percent increase in the number of 20- to 30-year-olds since 2000. In 2013, Charlotte was named the fourth fastest-growing city since the recession and the eighth best city for jobs in the country. We also hold the title of ninth top moving destination and ninth most job openings per capita. We have a very strong employer base, a good business climate, innovative leaders and a beautiful city – all attributes that young professionals are seeking.

What is unique about Charlotte’s growth is that some of these Generation Y workers are bringing baby boomers with them, as demonstrated with Eileen and Tara’s example. Alongside this growth of young professionals, the population of 55-64 year olds living in Uptown increased 98.2 percent since 2000, the second fastest growing demographic group. Baby Boomers were also the fastest growing demographic in the three-mile radius of Charlotte’s Uptown, with a 37.1 percent increase. This trend in residential migration to the urban core follows a similar employment migration: a new era of corporate urbanism.

Of course, some of this data is intuitive, since Baby Boomers represent a large portion of our overall population and this generation is getting older. However, the fact that they, like their Gen Y counterparts, are moving toward the urban core is a notable trend in Charlotte. It makes perfect sense – there are plenty of apartments and condos in the area, along with single family homes. We have amenities that fit an urban lifestyle, such as our newly-opened Romare Bearden Park and the soon-to-open BB&T Ballpark, both within walking distance for many Center City residents. The past year brought more housing starts than any year since the beginning of the recession in Center City Charlotte. This trend toward migration to the urban core is here to stay.

Charlotte’s standard of living also appeals to a wide spectrum of people with our clean Uptown district, mild winters and employment sectors in the region including banking, sports, tourism and healthcare. We have 14 new residential properties rising in urban neighborhoods (Uptown and South End), with more in the pipeline. The lure of urban lifestyle, transit-oriented life, and walkability to work and entertainment is undeniable – both for young professionals and for baby boomers.

At Charlotte Center City Partners, our work is centered around ensuring that our urban core is viable, livable, memorable, and sustainable. We focus on ensuring that the 100,000+ employees who work Uptown, the 21,000 residents who live in Center City, and the thousands of visitors who visit each year find that we have great parks, great hospitality and entertainment venues, strong employers and innovative leaders, exciting events and well-planned development projects. A healthy urban core contributes to a healthy region, and our goal is to ensure that Charlotte’s central business district is on a path to continued growth.

Simply put, Charlotte’s Center City is attractive to a wide range of residents, and we look forward to welcoming many more in the decades to come.

Michael Smith is the president and CEO of Charlotte Center City Partners, which facilitates and promotes the economic, cultural and residential development of the Charlotte region’s urban core. Smith’s background blends corporate and non-profit experience.

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Derek Prall

Derek Prall is a professional journalist who has held numerous positions with a variety of print and online publications including The Public Manager magazine and the New Jersey Herald. He is a 2008...

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Jason Axelrod is an award-winning journalist who has reported for The Seattle Times, The Arizona Republic, the Phoenix Business Journal and Mother Nature Network, among other outlets. Jason...
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