Advantages of City Living
Good friends of Andy Alloway moved from a really nice, large house on a golf course 20 minutes from downtown into a loft style condo smack dab in the middle of downtown Omaha.
“They are in their upper 30s. He’s a business owner and was tired of maintenance on a house. They are the type of couple that likes to travel. They are now close to the ballparks, arena, bike path and restaurants,” Alloway, broker/owner of DEEB Realtor in Omaha, said. “We have a lot of development that is brand new downtown along with redevelopment of warehouse type residential homes and new proposed street row houses. Revitalization has been enhanced, and it’s exploding. There are lots of cranes in downtown Omaha.
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Downtown living isn’t for everyone. But many people are choosing to reside where the action is all across the country. In fact, the growth in urban cities continues to outpace other areas outside of city living. According to the latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, the nation’s urban population grew by 12.1 percent from 2000 to 2010, beating out the overall growth (9.7 percent) for the entire United States. Urban areas, defined by the bureau as densely developed residential and commercial areas, now hold nearly 81 percent of the U.S. population.
That doesn’t mean all of those people live in the downtown areas. But for places like Omaha, city living is offering more and more choices of entertainment, dining, recreation and outside spaces to entice those categorized as young professionals to retirees and everyone in between.
“We are seeing a trend nationally of people waiting longer to have families. So, they are free to live where they want to. And there is a big push for young people to move into these urban centric areas,” he said.
There are a lot more stylish options for bars and restaurants in the downtown areas these days, Alloway said, along with arenas for games and concerts, specialty shops, dog parks, bike and walking trails, and theaters.
But if someone is coming from the comforts of living in a single home, it might take a while to get used to a condo situation downtown.
“You have common walls. You have someone below and above you, too. You still have to watch how loud you play your music,” he said. “And security can be an issue. What kind of parking will you have? From an amenities standpoint, you also need to know where the nearest grocery store is. You don’t see a lot of grocery stores in downtowns. And what is the proximity to the nearest emergency room?”
But there is a great appeal that everything is done for you – from the shoveling of the walks to mowing the lawn in condo living. For those who still want a backyard, many downtowns still offer row homes and other single family living houses with some yard amenities or patios.
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The ever-growing city of Austin, Texas, offers a variety of residential opportunities in its downtown with hi-rise condos, high end apartment complexes, penthouses and several neighborhoods within block or two of downtown.
“Everyone wants to live downtown,” says Lee Ann Clark, real estate agent and part-owner of the Austin City Living Real Estate. “Everyone wants to live in central Austin. People are relocating here, and they want to be close to everything such as Lady Bird Lake, hike and bike trails, the farmer’s market, music festivals and the parks.”
She admits though that choosing to live downtown can cost much more than a house in the suburbs. For instance, the average house outside of the central area costs about $200,000. Living downtown will be much more expensive with places ranging from $300,000 to in the millions.
With nearly perfect weather in the 70s and 80s and many job opportunities with a growing economy, Austin has become the fastest growing city in America with fewer than 1 million residents, according to the Census Bureau. The weather in Austin is usually in the 70s and 80s.
“In the spring, we have 128 new people moving here every day. It slows down a little in the winter, but Austin is an oasis in Central Texas. We are surrounded by hill country like San Francisco. The quality of life here is great,” Clark says.
She sees every age group living in the downtown area.
“I’m in my 40s, and I can go downtown Austin, and you just blend in with everyone. It’s eclectic. Sure, there are parts that college kids dominate. But the whole night life is not just for young people here,” she says.
Many choose downtown living because it makes life simpler. They may work downtown or their friends live there, and they just want to be closer to all the action.
It used to be downtown living was regulated to places like New York and Chicago. But in the past 10 to 15 years, other cities are doing a great job of revitalizing their downtowns to attract more business, retail and residents, said Alloway.
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Lee Nelson writes for national and regional magazines, websites, and business journals. Her work has appeared in Yahoo! Homes and many Hearst publications such as Life@Home and Women@Work.