The Urban Transformation of Millenials


I found clarity in the gen-x rebellion against what for years has been the prevailing culture of excess. Life in North America during the second half of the twentieth century has been an experience in consumption, accumulation and exceleration. The hardships of the second war in Europe in my grandparents’ generation was soon forgotten in a haze of new affluence in my parents cohort.

The appeal of innovation drives forward every field. The quality of life for humans has generally improved, but has led to excess. Increased productivity, technology and population during the baby-boomer years have resulted in a frantic, exponential pace.


As a kid riding on the coattail of the 60’s / 70’s counter-culture, a change to the rigid formula of post-war measure of North American wealth, suburbia was inevitable. It was thought once boomers began to take over all facets of society, they would curtail the growing excesses of their war-torn parents.

Yet it became clear that the counter-culture ‘revolution’ only partially represented the cohort. Most fulfilled and exceeded the aspirations of their parents, embracing and extending the consumer dream.


The radical sixties were explained away as simply the rebellion of youth. The boomers ‘sold out’, and bought into the car-centric culture handed to them. Cars drove new tract housing and ring highway projects across the continent, with appointments in distant quadants. Habitual traffic, roadrage, MADD, seatbelt laws, EZPass toll roads, express lanes became part of the cultural landscape.


North American state and provincial governments offer municipalities property tax as the mechanism to finance themselves. This allows local municipalities to compete to attract higher revenue properties and taxes.

It is usually agricultural land on the urban periphery that goes up in value. Higher property values mean an increase in property tax, although agricultural revenue remains unchanged. Unregulated, municipalities change the composition of their communities. Locals give up farming in proximity to urban areas. Such ‘fallowed’ land are in turn often re-zoned to be suburban residential.

Not having urban planning at a more regional level led to urban centers were left to those who didn’t or couldn’t buy into the model. Career workers moved their family to the suburbs as a sign of achievement. Kids who grew up in such neighbourhoods were frightened by the urban core. They also stayed a part of the suburban donout. Without young affluent families to fill neighborhoods, cities centres declined.

Yet somewhere towards the end of the twentieth century, the push came back. Words like environment, conservation and sustainable made their way back into the discussion. Not in a revolutionary way, as much as a quiet shift back, a trend sometimes referred to as ‘market forces’.

Millenials are considered to be driven by other priorities than their parents and grand-parents. There is less focus on career and wealth, and more on the hyper-sentient experiences and services in the world. Life as adventure.

The internet in our hands phenomena of 2007 has greatly influenced and accelerated all facets. Online shopping, banking, media, gaming and food servives are most noticeable, compared with older first gen computer users who spend more time plugged into social networks, maybe even more time at it.

Downtown restaurants now bustle with young professionals and respected craftmen who’ve been and come from worldwide destinations. Millenial celebrity now includes a good many chefs. They are multicultural, complex, and enjoy it in others. Family life is pushed into their forties. Many don’t have a driver’s license and most don’t have a car. Don’t need one, they order what they need when they need it.

City governments and businesses became savvy at setting up their services to be desireable. The shift to communal resources is finally becoming part of the Zeitgeist.

We are moving to the share-economy..


Aroh Wendelin


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: