Millennials Loom Large In Town Comprehensive Planning | WGLT

Millennials Loom Large In Town Comprehensive Planning

Apr 28, 2016

ISU students, also known as members of the Millennial generation.
Credit Illinois State University

The Millennial generation is having an effect on the planning for the Town of Normal's next comprehensive plan which would guide the town  for the next 20 years.  Millennials are currently the largest generation in the United States. In the Town of Normal, Millennials age 18-34 make up more than 50% of the population.

The McLean County Regional Planning Commission (MCRPC) is working with the town to develop its comprehensive plan, a process known as PlanIt Normal. The MCPRC  issued its existing conditions and community outreach report last week. Much of the report deals with demographics, but also housing, infrastructure, transportation and attitudes toward government. Executive Director Vasu Pinnamaraju told GLT's Mike McCurdy during  Sound Ideas what the MCRPC learned about Millennials and other demographics in the town will be key.

"We really need to know the housing, land use, transportation and other choices that people are making to plan accordingly and accommodate those choices," said Pinnamaraju.  "What's interesting about these generations -- and Millennials make up over 50 percent of the population in Normal -- it's hard to see we have a large percentage of the non-student demographic, aging Boomers., Their preferences to some degree overlap with Millennials preferences quite a bit in terms of housing and cultural choices. 

Pinnamaraju said majority of Boomers tend to prefer university towns that bring cultural value and energy. The MCRPC mapped where various generations live. It shows a high concentration of younger people near Illinois State University, but there is an immediate ring around the younger people with a higher concentration of seniors, followed by families beyond that.

Older Millennials are being to seek different kinds of housing than younger Millennials, according to Pinnamaraju. As they get older and have families they need more room. However, Pinnamaraju agreed that communities, including Normal, could be pushing these young families into housing situations they don't really want.

"The national research is showing Millennials prefer single family living arrangements but are still very interested in connect neighborhoods that allow them to walk and bike to amenities," said Pinnamaraju. 

Pinnamaraju said while demographics can drive the type of housing people may choose, the Town can help nudge home shoppers to more dense living situation. Density is more conducive to a walkable, bikeable, transit friendly neighborhood -- what many Millennials are looking for for their living situations. 

"A good plan will help the town understand the needs of the demographics and accommodate those needs accordingly," said Pinnamaraju.

When asked if the town's efforts toward more dense housing in Uptown were the right move in the right place, Pinnamaraju said "absolutely."

"That's what we heard from the community as well. The town has been working at this vision for the last 15 years and the community is generally very pleased with that general direction," said Pinnamaraju.

The existing conditions and community outreach report for the town is on line at the PlanIt Normal website.  Pinnamaraju said the next step is a visioning process that will help determine Normal's place in 2040 and develop a core set of values. After that, community working groups will be formed in 2017 to work from those values to develop future objectives for the community.