KCUR published a piece on a recent study of what millennials in Kansas City actually want by way of housing amenities. Much of the conventional wisdom on these demands, the piece noted, is generated from coastal cities with much higher population density and may not apply here. According to the piece,
[Highline Partners representative Brett] Posten says conventional wisdom says millennials want to live in lofts downtown, but most of the [Kansas City] millennials that Highline talked to said they eventually planned to move to the suburbs, just like their parents did. While they enjoyed touring pristine fitness centers with steaming saunas and heated pools, Posten says, millennials put a higher value on open floor plans, in-unit washers and dryers and secure, covered parking.
That's because Kansas City millennials aren’t actually ditching their cars. Though many said they’d like public transportation to be more reliable, less than 5 percent are car-free.
This is welcome research and should be instructive to city leaders who lard development subsidies on high rise projects and downtown streetcars thinking they are building for the future. They aren’t. In fact, the rush to develop in Kansas City may be based on research conducted elsewhere. The Kansas City Star quoted Posten as saying,
We think developers are making decisions based on reading about millennials in the national press. The demographic in Kansas City is distinctly different.
Therein lies the problem of economic development in Kansas City: trying too hard to be like other cities and often joining the race too late. Convention hotels, luxury high rises, airport terminals and streetcars are little more than municipal me-tooism, rather than reflecting on Kansas City’s own unique competitive advantages.
Instead of trying to predict future market demands and subsidizing them—in the same way every other city has done before us—Kansas City leaders should focus on delivering basic services effectively and efficiently.