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The Future is Smaller 

Publisher's Note

"The story of the millennials is still being written," we concluded in our December cover story, "The Selfie Generation." We documented how those born between the 1980s and the early 2000s were carving out a particular space in America — mostly by necessity. After the crash of 2008, millennials have had to recalculate — delaying their pursuit of the traditional American dream or rejecting it altogether. And of course this economic catastrophe also plunged hundreds of thousands into poverty.

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Sociologists generalize and tell us that millennials have been quick to adapt, as they tend to be less motivated by money (although they are strongly mortgage-averse), instead preferring meaningful life experiences.

The signs are everywhere that the millennials' impact is only growing. Just this week, Bloomberg News reported that even though home prices are up, home ownership in America is at its lowest level since 1967. Meanwhile, 2 million new rental units have been added over the past year, and vacancies are at their lowest since the '80s.

HGTV is getting into the act, too; instead of peddling the McMansions of yesteryear, they have shows like Tiny House Builders. We're talking really, really tiny — like Ant-Man tiny. For the price of a new car, you can own your own 200-square-foot home; park it on a friend's acreage and you're living the simple life. And it's catching, as members of other generations are opening their minds to not-so-big living. Here in Kendall Yards, millennials in one-bedroom studios are living side-by-side with Baby Boomers who have traded their suburban yards for compact townhouses. Yes, the story of the millennials is still being written.

Spokane is on the verge of some major investments. There's a new medical school, a growing health sciences campus and all the attendant development those will bring. A new central line from the Spokane Transit Authority will connect our close-in neighborhoods and beyond. Riverfront Park changes, along with new retailers and restaurants in downtown, will certainly draw more infill housing.

How can these investments embrace this emerging ethic? Millennials are social, online and in person, so common space in parks large and small will be at a premium — as will events that bring people together. Mass transit projects will be crucial, as will infrastructure that embraces bike culture, like Centennial Trail extensions and the Gateway Bridge connecting the University District to the area around Sprague and Sherman. All these projects need to be filtered through the lens of how people, young and old, are going to be living in the coming decades. Society is changing. We need to keep up. ♦

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