Building “urban burbs” for Millennials

By Scott Hamele

Live, Work, Play in Johnson County

OVERLAND PARK, KS- Johnson County should be concerned about its future and ability to attract Millennials who are now the largest, most diverse generation in the U.S. population. Johnson County touts great schools, low crime, affordable cost of living, ease of transportation and an educated workforce. But we are missing key elements to attract the 18-34 year old demographic that will sustain our local businesses for the next 30 + years. That is more mixed-use (commercial office, retail, hospitality, entertainment, multi-family) developments that will create the new “urban burbs”.

“What are our local governments and community leaders doing to make it easier for investors to create millennial friendly developments?” asks Scott Hamele, President of Construction DesignWorks, Inc. “Our community desperately needs more mixed use properties like the Prairiefire development in Overland Park or Park Place in Leawood.”

Younger Millennials will always prefer the urban core to suburbs. But this younger demographic only has a median income of $25,000. The older Millennials are attracted to the new “urban burbs” and have a median income of $48,000. Our city councils and planners, design professionals and developers need a strategic plan that incorporates 4 key elements into their plan:

Technology & Entrepreneurship

In a study by the Kauffman Foundation, 54% of Millennials say they want to start a business. They are big dreamers and have witnessed their parents get laid off from companies they had worked at for 30 years. They don’t trust the idea of long term stability offered by large employers. As a consequence, the millennial is looking to make a mark for themselves. Communities that offer creative environments, state of the art technology, foster start-ups and educational opportunities will attract these young entrepreneurs.

Cultural Attractions

Communities with an exciting restaurant and bar scene attract young people. Austin considers itself one of the top millennial cities in the nation, and for good reason. They offer unique restaurants, eclectic bars, museums, sporting events, the arts as well as a vibrant music culture. Creating these types of environments is a key to attracting the workforce that Johnson County needs.


While most surveys list Accessibility as the top criteria for Millennials when deciding where to live, consider these surveys have been geared towards cities like New York, San Francisco and Chicago where public transportation is such a major component of the infrastructure. Living in the Midwest allows for more use of cars and surface parking. Locating a development near major interstates and thoroughfares offers the “Midwest Millennial” what he or she wants. The strategic layout and design of a mixed-use development is so important as to offer close proximity of where the millennials will live, work and play.

Cost of Living

Buying a home doesn’t seem as important to Millennials as it was to the baby boomer or Gen X generation. They want to live near work in centralized parts of communities where cultural activities are predominant. The Midwest has a great advantage over both coasts in cost of living, we all know that. Millennials are just starting their careers and are looking for an experience that is exciting, safe and inspiring, all the while on an affordable budget.

Johnson County’s goal should be a comprehensive plan that attracts older Millenials (26 -34 years old) by creating the new “urban burbs”. If that includes commercial renovations or tenant improvements. We need to reinvent Johnson County or see this generation of workers choose other communities that offer what they want.

Construction DesignWorks uses its hands-on approach and design expertise to create and build professional interior spaces specialized for each customer using the design-build method. Their complete turnkey project management solutions align with the unique business needs of various types of real estate. Construction DesignWorks, Inc. is located at 21961 West 83rd Street in Shawnee, Kansas. For more information, call (913) 745-4727 or visit their website at