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Denver's Still the Number-One City for Millennials Whether You Like It or Not

A lot of them didn't go home.EXPAND
A lot of them didn't go home.
Michael Roberts

Nearly ten years after the prestigious Brookings Institute named Denver the top destination for young adults, a new study has proclaimed the Mile High City to be the number-one metro area for millennials who want to relocate.

Don't expect all of them to be greeted with open arms.

The new analysis, by the real estate website COMMERCIALCafe, notes that between 2014 and 2018, the Denver-Aurora-Lakewood MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area) saw its population increase by 6.5 percent, going from 2.7 million to 2.9 million residents. Of new Denver dwellers, 17 percent were between 25 and 34 years old, boosting the millennial population by 13 percent in just four years. Yet the unemployment rate for millennials over this span was just 3 percent, the third-lowest of any MSA probed — and the average commute of 28 minutes landed in seventh place among the major metros in the U.S.

The reasons that so many young adults have targeted Denver have shifted over the past decade. Back in 2011, Brookings demographer William Frey offered stats to show that the attractiveness of the area grew for this group during the recession of 2008 to 2010.

"To the extent that they are moving at all, young adults are headed to metro areas which are known to have a certain vibe — college towns, high-tech centers and so-called 'cool cities,'" with Denver topping the list, Frey wrote.

Today, of course, the local economy is among the boomiest in the country, which explains in part why Denver was rated the number-one choice for home-buying transplants last year — no surprise, given that in 2018, more millennials moved to three zip codes in the metro area than any other spot in the state.

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But all this growth has led to a considerable backlash, particularly among longtimers who are aghast at the worsening traffic exacerbated by seemingly endless road construction, and breakneck development that critics believe has caused neighborhoods to get fuglier with each passing day.

In a recent roundup of comments prompted by our post about New Year's resolutions for our community, one reader spoke for many when he wrote, "The 'fabric of the culture' of Denver is long gone. It’s just a bunch of stupid ass transplants now that have no clue about anything to do with Denver. It’s a city full of tourists."

Not quite. After all, a lot of these folks are staying.

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