MILLENNIALS & BABY BOOMERS…Breathing New Life Into Downtowns

Feb 15, 2022 | Blog Posts

by Patten Mills | 3 min. read

As described in ROCK’s June 2019 blogs, “The Rise of the Silver Tsunami” and “Meet Us In Hipsturbia,” current Millennial housing preferences are comparable to Baby Boomers’ as they enter retirement. With convenience and community being important factors to both generations, opportunities abound for brick-and-mortar businesses and underutilized properties in downtowns. This is seen locally in Lancaster County, with new development projects in Lancaster City and Columbia Borough that provide convenience for residents while also increasing the customer base for businesses within walking distance.

Mosaic, a 20-story, luxury 55+ community that is underway in the center of Lancaster, is projected to be the tallest building in the city. The tower is proposed to have 147 apartments and upscale amenities including a spa, pool, ballroom, roof-top garden, and restaurants at the ground level.1 Plans for the iconic building exemplify the influence of the Silver Tsunami, the retiring Baby Boomer generation desiring convenient access to retail, dining, housing, entertainment, and health care. Willow Valley Communities, the developer behind the Mosaic project, is also involved in the revitalization of the Southern Market Lancaster across the street. The Southern Market, which opened January 27th, 2022, features restaurant start-ups, a central bar, small retail spaces, and coworking spaces. Built in 1888, the Southern Market building was long vacant in an underutilized section of downtown before its transformation into a community centerpiece.2

With more than 1,000 new apartment units planned for Lancaster City alone, developers are focusing heavily on the county’s urban center for new housing projects.1 Additionally, growth guided by preferences of Millennials and Baby Boomers is also spilling out to smaller towns like Columbia Borough. Riverview Terrace is the first new residential building to be built in Columbia in 50 years and will add 33 apartments to the area.3 It is expected to attract the attention of Millennials and Baby Boomers, which could stimulate the borough’s economy without putting strain on the local school systems.4 The building will be located on Locust Street within walking distance of the blocks between 2nd and 5th Streets that are crowded with restaurants, cafes, and shops. It will also feature two first floor commercial spaces on-site that are available for lease through ROCK’s own, Nate Resh.

"As people are becoming more focused on wellness and mental and physical health, getting away from the density of city centers while retaining walkable amenities is increasingly important -- Benjamin Myers, Director of Development, Eberly Myers."

Eberly Myers, the developer behind the project, is also behind an infill project in Lancaster City proposed for 215 N. Queen Street. “As people are becoming more focused on wellness and mental and physical health, getting away from the density of city centers while retaining walkable amenities is increasingly important,” said Benjamin Myers, Director of Development at Eberly Myers. “There are intrinsic values that smaller communities have that you can’t find in major cities. Columbia rises to the top due to its proximity to Lancaster with access to the city and views across the river that create a sense of connectedness.” Eberly Myers is passionate about finding ways of creating communities of economic diversity through integration of different price points and retail that supports community.

Columbia Borough is the location for several recent and ongoing projects that appeal to the mindsets of Hipsturbia and the Silver Tsunami, including the Columbia Market House redevelopment and Starview Brews. The Columbia Market House reopened in May of 2021 after being vacant since 2017. Established in 1869, the Market House again brings the community together by offering local produce and specialty foods with year-round vendor stands in addition to a restaurant and event space.5 Starview Brews, an adaptive reuse project at the former tobacco warehouse located at 224 Locust Street, has also recently opened. The site is now a restaurant and brewery with PA-produced beer.6

"It’s been a long haul, but the renaissance is finally here -- Daisy Pagan, Owner, Perfect Settings"

Daisy Pagan, a local resident and owner of Perfect Settings on Locust Street, commented on Columbia’s evolution in correlation to Millennial and Baby Boomer trends, “When I came to Columbia 19 years ago, the majority of the downtown storefronts were boarded up. We got involved in the strategic planning process the Borough implemented, and got to work. Now, entrepreneurs are hard-pressed to find a storefront that is available for lease. As the Vice President of the Merchant’s Association of Columbia, I take pride in that. Businesspeople are seeing the value in their investment in Columbia. We’ve been striving for that for years, knowing that businesses that target the interests of a younger generation will bring along the revitalization that we need. It’s been a long haul, but the renaissance is finally here.”

The inclusive, walkable, amenity-filled communities that these projects help create showcase the desires of Hipsturbia and the Silver Tsunami. Although we’ve highlighted areas of Lancaster County in this blog, the influence of Hipsturbia and the Silver Tsunami is evident throughout our region. From cities like Harrisburg and Lancaster to towns such as Red Lion and Columbia, these projects demonstrate that fostering these mindsets can breathe new life into our local downtowns.

Sources

  1. https://lancasteronline.com/business/local_business/lancaster-countys-top-business-stories-of-2021-skyscraper-restaurant-closures-economic-rebound-and-more/article_b88d738a-68bf-11ec-87a9-83c1bd3e3f47.html
  2. https://lancasteronline.com/business/local_business/southern-market-food-hall-to-open-in-january-meet-the-first-chefs-picked-to-be/article_764f241a-2c5f-11ec-a496-af83b065a8f4.html
  3. https://local21news.com/news/local/after-50-years-a-new-columbia-building-project-is-underway
  4. https://www.cpbj.com/lancaster-developer-breaks-ground-on-new-columbia-apartments/
  5. https://www.ydr.com/story/news/2021/04/12/columbia-market-house-opening-3-new-businesses-york-lancaster/7137631002/
  6. https://lancasteronline.com/business/whats_in_store/starview-brews-opens-in-columbia/article_b2e35b02-8048-11ec-8957-5b5a07901fe9.html


Additional Resources

https://www.columbiapa.net/community/projects/index.php
https://www.columbia-edc.org/

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