It turns out Atlanta has an “X Factor”
You would never guess Atlanta is a Generation X town based on any discussion about real estate and regional development. As one ULI member recently commented in a meeting, “I am never the popular kid in the room… I am neither newlywed nor mostly dead, I am a member of Generation X.”
But did you know that the Atlanta region has an unusually high concentration of Generation X? Young people came to Atlanta in droves in the 1990s and stayed. According to approximations from the Atlanta Regional Commission, our region is very similar to the nation in our concentration of Baby Boomers and Gen Y (e.g. Millennials) but has a much higher concentration than the nation of Generation X. Depending on which birth years you use, Atlanta actionally has a higher concentration of Gen X than Millennials.
So who is Generation X?
- Academics often identify Generation X to be those born between 1961 and 1981. The narrowest definition is by Neilson which defines Generation X as those born between 1965 and 1976, only 16% of the United States population.
- Sometime called the “MTV Generation” or “Latchkey kid generation”, we are associated with stereotypes of being anti-establishment, scrappy, and independent;
- In musical terms we were punk rock, heavy metal, grunge, and rap.
- If you don’t know already, you are google away from finding out we have a something of a generation chip on our shoulder and are thought to have a high level of skepticism.
The younger Millennials, like their Baby Boomer parents, are driving demand for all consumer products, particularly real estate. Millennials are the primary demand driver for the multi-family housing boom, one of the main factors in the resurgence of intown neighborhoods and walkable communities throughout the Atlanta region, and are now reshaping the way we think about commercial office development with so called “Millennial work places.” This demand has bolstered the ULI mission of intelligent urbanization for more walkable, sustainable communities.
So why should we care about Generation X? If you step back for a moment, you may notice that the very communities that the Millennials are demanding are brought to you courtesy of Generation X. These are projects that pushed the envelope years ago and created the framework for a new urban experience in Atlanta. Through their thesis projects at Georgia Tech, Gen Xers brought us the Atlanta BeltLine and Atlantic Station. West Midtown, anchored by White Provision, was developed by Gen Xers. More recently, places like Krog Street Market, also developed by Gen Xers, have created a whole new dining and entertainment experience in Atlanta.
These are projects and initiatives that are transforming our city. These are the places we take our out-of-town guests to show them that Atlanta is very different than the national caricature of suburban sprawl. These are the types of places that recently led Vogue to suggest that Atlanta is the new cultural capital of the Southeast.
Perhaps the generational skepticism and independence of the smaller Generation X has translated to a fresh approach to place-making and real estate development. There is a richness, quirkiness, and dare-I-say-it authenticity to some of the best new development in Atlanta. I submit that it has something to do with our “X factor.”
Sarah Kirsch, Executive Director of ULI Atlanta, just so happens to be a member of Generation X.