Suburbs Spruce Up to Lure More Millennials

November 21, 2018

A growing number of suburbs aging cities are launching marketing campaigns to try to attract younger homeowners to settle down in their cities.

Surveys show that millennials tend to favor walkable, urban living areas, not the 2-acre house lots that some older suburbs tend to offer. The higher home prices also may be a turn off.

Lake Forest, Ill., has devoted $100,000 in city funding to launch a campaign called “Welcome Home,” to appeal to the younger generation. They’re touting their 800 acres of open space, top-notch schools, and lower property taxes than neighboring places as incentive. Three years into the campaign, home sales have risen and inventory levels have fallen as more young families move in, Deborah Fischer, a broker with Berkshire Hathaway/KoenigRubloff Realty Group, told realtor.com®.

A skateboard on pavement

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Branding “can begin to raise awareness or shift perception,” says Diana Ichton Nelson, co-owner of Black Fly Media, a public relations firm that is rebranding the Portland, Maine, suburb of Bridgton, for the same reasons: to attract younger homeowners. “By promoting a town’s positive attributes, people might consider it for the first time.”

Cities with walkable downtowns, bike paths, and an inventory of entry-level housing are poised for such media campaigns to appeal to the younger generations, marketers say. Communities without such qualities may need to take some steps to add such traits to make their city appeal to younger generations more, says Ben Muldrow, a partner at Arnett Muldrow & Associates in Greenville, S.C.

“A focus needs to be placed on the way the community looks and events that create a sense of community,” says Muldrow, whose firm has worked on branding campaigns for more than 500 communities across the country. Such events could include art walks, brew fests, and water or road races.

In Bridgton, city officials have shown that a branding campaign can pay off. The town is about 40 miles from Portland and has a population of about 5,000, of which about half are 45 or older. It launched a campaign to appeal to younger families with the tag line “Love Always, Bridgton.” The campaign included videos, ads, a new logo, an upgraded town website, and public events to highlight community pride.

Emily Delamater told realtor.com® about moving to Bridgton from Portland earlier this year with her young family. The family had seen the ads about Bridgton. ”It's nice to see a community that's putting effort forth to draw people," she says. "It felt like they were excited about getting new people and businesses to come in.”