Mobile Millennials as Urban Pioneers

Posted by Cole Judge

Why would a geographically mobile millennial move from Denver to Fresno? I’ve gotten many questions including, “How long are you staying? Why are you here?” followed by a look of pity and slight judgment. Am I crazy? The answer is, “No.” And I am not alone. Many young professionals want to be part of a movement that is bigger than them. They (I) want to live in cities where they can be part of the renaissance.

I have tried twice moving to more established “tier 1” cities and each time, I found myself missing being part of the struggle. I prefer to be in the trenches, to help make those city-shaping decisions. I like feeling that deep sense of identity or urgency that I felt so strongly when I lived in New Orleans a couple years ago. In New Orleans, you worked to save the city, your [adopted] culture. Being a New Orleanian pervaded everything you did.

I believe there is a group of us 25-34 year olds (and all ages) that desire more than enjoying a city and living life. Maybe it’s just urban planners, but there are those of us changemakers who enjoy cites that:

  • Are smaller scale where one knows all the players at the table;
  • Are home to a diversity of races, incomes, lifestyles;
  • Need some love;
  • Are a little scrappy;
  • Engage local residents who are invested;
  • Are in the midst of major planning efforts;
  • Celebrate every little victory;
  • Welcome newcomers;
  • Show great potential to become a “loveable” place.

Those of us urbanists are moving to places like Cleveland, Detroit, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Memphis, and yours truly, Fresno.

These cities need to think creatively about next steps, to come up with unique economic development opportunities, to improve the health and safety of the city, and to once again, become glorious urban centers highlighting their art, culture, architecture and history. Fresno has an incredible stock of art deco architecture, just waiting for adaptive reuse; the mayor celebrates what may seem like little victories, such as attending the opening of the Downtown Mayflower lofts; Downtown has a brewing company (Tiagoa Sequoia); Downtown’s Fresno Brewing Company is a coffeshop/bar that has become a gathering place for professionals and changemakers; the people here are friendly; and it means something to be here.

In the end, maybe we urbanists attracted to these cities just love a comeback story. Maybe on the inside, we are comeback kids ourselves. To you other comeback kids out there, listen to that passion and move to one of these cities. Be an urban changemaker on the ground floor. Become part of the local community. Come bring your entrepreneurship and energy to Fresno. Be part of it. Even Conan O’Brian did his part.

I’ll take you out to dinner when you arrive.


Downtown Fresno:: Potential



Add yours →

  1. Thank you for writing this; very moving.

  2. I’m always fighting for the underdog, as I’ve always been one. You all are doing an amazing job in Downtown Fresno. I love heading down there for ArtHop on Bikes, Dinner at the Local Resteraunts and the awesome events and activities. The struggle is what makes Community Revitilization great for me.

  3. This is exactly the reason why I came back.

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