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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The suburbs are becoming cool again — as long as they resemble inner city downtowns.

What's happening: As millennials settle down, have kids and look for cheaper houses and good schools, they're migrating out to the suburbs — and creating a different type of live-work-play district that developers are calling "hipsturbia."

"The people who are thriving in the knowledge economy want walkable, mixed-use, interesting environments. They want the village square experience. At the same time, they want affordable housing."
Andy Lusk, partner at Lionstone Investments in Houston, at the Urban Land Institute conference

The big picture: Suburban growth slowed down in the aftermath of the financial crisis. Millennials just graduating from college headed to big cities, where the jobs concentrated. Now, they're in a different stage of life, priced out of many cities and, thanks to the good economy, have more location flexibility.

  • Suburbs with good jobs, relatively easy access to nearby city centers and moderate weather are growing twice as fast as the closest cities, per census data.
  • These suburbs and smaller metros will see clusters of dense, mixed-use developments, where people may rely more on public or shared transportation.
  • That's driven in part by the massive student loan debt that has pushed home-ownership later in life for younger generations, PwC partner Mitch Roschelle noted at last weeks' Urban Land Institute conference. "Especially with student debt, do you really want a car payment?"
"Millennials are people too. There was this idea that theirs was going to be a fundamentally different way of living that was going to last forever. Turns out it's impossible to live in New York City with three kids."
— Hilary Spann, Managing Director of Real Estate Investments for CPPIB in New York

It's not just young couples and families spurring the suburbs to evolve. Baby boomers and empty nesters are opting to stay in the suburbs and also pushing to make them more hip with recreation, retail and restaurants. (Brew pubs, coffee shops and yoga studios seem to be bare minimum requirements.)

What's happening: Major cities including San Francisco, Chicago and New York serve as anchors for smaller communities that can be dubbed "hipsturbias," according to the Urban Land Institute.

  • Universities are often key to bringing in a constant supply of young people and employers, who are looking for that talent pipeline often found in urban downtowns. This is true of Northwestern in Evanston, Illinois, Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona, and Stanford in Silicon Valley.
  • Near Atlanta, Decatur and Alpharetta are among those trying to fit the formula.
  • Around NYC, the communities of Yonkers and New Rochelle fit the bill, as do the New Jersey towns of Hoboken and Summit.

Flashback: In early 2013, a NYT story famously coined the "hipsturbia" term when young creatives fled Brooklyn's growing affluence for communities like Dobbs Ferry or Tarrytown. It's now happening more in other cities as the younger cohort of millennials move into the next stage of life.

The bottom line: The "back to the 'burbs" trend won't happen across the board, and big cities will still attract young post-millennials. But suburbs with the right downtown-mimicking attributes can expect renewed attention from real estate developers and investors.

Go deeper: Millennials are moving to the exurbs in droves

Go deeper

SoCalGas agrees to $1.8 billion settlement for 2015 gas blowout

An evacuee with a Save Porter Ranch sign outside Southern California Gas Company's Aliso Canyon gate in Porter Ranch in January 2016 as the gas leak continued. Photos: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Southern California Gas Company and its parent company announced Monday they've agreed to pay up to $1.8 billion in settlement claims over the 2015 Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility blowout.

Why it matters: Some 100,000 tons of methane, ethane and toxic chemicals poured into the air for 112 days, forcing over 8,000 families to evacuate from their Los Angeles-area homes and sickening many with headaches, nausea and nosebleeds, per the L.A. Times.

Updated 4 hours ago - World

North Korea fires short-range missile to sea, slams "hostile" U.S. policy

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Photo: API/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said Tuesday that North Korea's military had fired a short-range missile toward its eastern sea, per AP.

Why it matters: North Korea's ambassador to the United Nations defended the latest launch in remarks to the UN General Assembly, demanding the U.S. and South Korea end their "hostile policy" against the country.

Arizona Judge: Adding mask mandates ban to budget bill unconstitutional

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) Photo: Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

An Arizona judge ruled Monday that the state's ban on mask mandates in schools, and other measures put into the state budget by Republicans, are unconstitutional, the Arizona Republic reports.

Why it matters: The sweeping ruling voids a ban on vaccine requirements for public universities, community colleges and local governments, and strikes down some non-COVID-related measures like a ban on teaching critical race theory in classrooms and anti-fraud measures for ballots.

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