Nesting in Place

City and countryside landscapes connected

When I hear that a hot new show is coming to Broadway, I am all over it, booking tickets for the earliest performance possible. When my wife Stephanie and I saw Dear Evan Hansen, nobody I told had even heard of it. 

Just goes to show you how fast fortunes can change. Sometimes for the better. Sometimes, as the past six months have proven, for the worse. 

Now I’m wondering when, or if, we’ll get to see the shows I bought tickets for months ago, which were supposed to open this year. Will the curtain go up next spring? In fall 2021, or later? 

How long will Broadway be a dead-end street before it comes roaring back to life? 

Questions like that are on millions of people’s minds: when can we finally go back to the future that we expected would be business as usual? 

Speaking of the future, I read that, more than ever, young adults want to begin their careers in cities. Even their parents want to soak up all that cities have to offer. 



That was the bullish outlook for cities in 2014. If you go back a mere five or six years, you’ll find, as I did, plenty of stories like that, declaring that the most desirable and fastest growing nesting place, by far, for Millennials, as well as Boomers, were urban centers.  

As recently as last November, it was reported that there has been a slowing down of migration for all age groups. Less than 5% of persons in their late 60s, for example, moved in 2019. Among people in their early 20s, only one in five have moved in recent years. People of all ages were happy to nest in place.

Young people liked being embedded in the city environment for its overall convenience, its energized socializing, its surplus of dining options, and its better-paying and more plentiful jobs. 

Empty Nesters with the means to do so—and plenty of leisure time in retirement—have been treating themselves to the same convenience and amenities of city life. What better way is there to stay young than to live and play among people younger than yourself. Youthfulness is contagious!

The allure of city living is so intoxicating it has been compared to the mythical Land of Oz.

Then 2020 happened. Or should I say unraveled.

What a difference a pandemic makes.

Now, cities like New York are in limbo, as people evacuate until the coronavirus clears. 

The nesting sequence has been turned upside down. 



It used to be that, upon graduation from college, young adults would return to live with their parents as they looked to launch a career. The preference has been to land an entry-level job in a city, where the most upwardly mobile opportunities tend to be concentrated. 

Marriage would soon follow. By the time a couple grew to a one- or two-child (or more) family, thoughts of moving to the wide open spaces and dream homes synonymous with the suburbs danced in their heads, 

Now, In the wake of Covid-19, the nesting pattern for Millennials is to work from home, but not their own home. Whether still working or furloughed, more than half of young people 18-29 are nesting back home with their parents. In some cases, they have the hard decision of whether to renew their city apartment one-year lease as it comes due for renewal, or stick with the parents until further notice.



There’s some blue sky peeking through the clouds, though. Many companies expect to have their offices re-populated by this time next year. Amazon and Facebook have just signed leases for huge spaces in midtown Manhattan, a sign of confidence in the city’s near-term prospects for revival. 

In the meantime, in some city neighborhoods, residential vacancies in apartment buildings are at a 10-year high, because Millennials and Boomers have reversed course, at least for the time being, to find a quieter nesting place as the pandemic persists.



Those who can afford it are rushing for the exits, namely the exits on the highways leading out of the city and into the surrounding suburbs. 

Moreover, the hustle and bustle of city life doesn’t work in favor of keeping a safe distance from others to avoid being infected by the virus droplets that are notorious for flying through the air from one person to the next, without our realizing it. 

That has prompted young families to find new nesting places in the suburbs, not unlike birds flying south for the winter. 

Is this the end of city living as we once knew it?

Not so fast! 



Some people may be giving up on the thought of city nesting altogether, but plenty of others clearly look forward to the day when they are comfortable enough to come back to their favorite nesting place. 

There is a fascinating historical analogy to this phenomenon. A century ago, after the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, you know what happened? The Roaring 20s! 

It was a time of fast fashion and celebration and a renewed sense of optimism that things were going to be okay. As bad as that virus was, people didn’t give up hope that the life they knew would still be there to take advantage of as things improved. 

Maybe it’s a sign that we also are at the very beginning of an equally resurgent ‘20s decade. Like comedian and city lover Jerry Seinfeld, I’m confident that the city will come roaring back, as it did 100 years ago. 

It’s common wisdom that the time to buy is when the market is down. With city real estate prices — for residential and commercial space both — significantly discounted now, there will be some mighty good bargains for buyers to snap up in the post-vaccine phase of the economic recovery. 

It’s also conventional wisdom that business and the economy are cyclical. Half a decade ago the city was the hot spot—the place to be. Now, it’s the suburbs.



While we may not have yet felt the full impact of the city exodus, which most likely has not even hit its peak, the good news is the next migration cycle should favor the city once again. 

We have our work cut out for us, to be sure. But rather than get overly worried about the state of things, I say invest in the future! Have faith in our ability to rebuild and bounce back stronger than before. Be part of the solution by not giving up hope. It will take a few years, but patience is rewarded. 

It’s not only young people who will make their way back to the city. The Boomers haven’t left for good. As much as they treasure their empty nests in the sleepy, leafy suburbs, they also value the invigorating effect of being among younger generations in a pulsating urban environment. 

My ageless philosophy as the Millennial Baby Boomer is that we’re as young as we give ourselves permission to be. Don’t let anybody tell you anything different. I don’t know about you, but I am so ready for the New Roaring 20s!

Originally posted on Forbes.

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