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Empty Nesters, Retirees Ditching The Suburbs For Downtown Minneapolis

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- No more shoveling, no yardwork and happy hour seven nights a week. Sound appealing?

Well, it sure is to a growing amount of Minnesotans choosing to live in downtown Minneapolis.

Since 2006, the population's grown by 25 percent. The Downtown Council hopes to see it double by 2025. They say most of the people showing interest in downtown property are empty nesters and retirees ditching the suburbs for the city-center.

These days America's coldest major city is outright cool. The food scene, bike trails, pro sports -- it's a vibrant time in Minneapolis.

And that's exactly why the Borjas are selling their Edina four-bedroom house.

"We want to be downtown, we want to enjoy going out, don't have to drive everywhere," said Nina Borja.

Their youngest kids are graduating high school and moving out. So, they're leaving Edina, too.

Rodolfo Trujillo is the family's retail agent, he works with Preferred Home Team, REMAX Advantage, specializing in the suburbs.

"It's becoming very, very common now, we see a lot of people like the Borjas," he said. "Before when they have kids, they want to be in the suburbs, closer to the good schools and stuff like that. When everybody moves away, now everybody wants to go back to the city, they want to be in the inner city, where the action is."

That's not just an observation, it's an all-out trend.

Luke Kleckner is a senior downtown real estate agent with REMAX Advantage Plus.

"Over 60 percent of the folks down here are empty nesters," he said.

He says his clients are looking for 2-or 3-bedrooms from $300,000 up to $1 million.

"They're coming from all over: Woodbury, Lakeville, Apple Valley to the westside...Wayzata, Edina, and up in Maple Grove," he said.

Mary and Dick Kollen are grandparents who are the definition of hip. Dick says one year they had tickets to more than 100 evening events.

After raising their three kids, the Kollens left their small town of Granite Falls for a tall downtown building with a skyline view.

"We went from about 4,600 square feet to 1,200," he said.

Bike trips, Vikings games, Lynx games, theatre, food, they do it all...and with their neighbors.

"Somebody said it's like a co-ed dorm for older people," Mary Kollen said.

But she says they socialize with all ages in the building.

It seems socialization is a big pull. One evening, WCCO's cameras found a large group of folks enjoying happy hour and a tour of Tattersall Distilling in northeast Minneapolis.

They're part of a group called Mill City Commons - people who are 55+ trying to remain happily independent as long as possible.

Lou Burdick left her Edina home for downtown, she's part of the group,

"We kinda look at each other now and again and say, 'At this age, can you believe we've met this many people and feel this connected,'" she said.

But the decision to move downtown isn't just emotional, it's practical.

"They just want to be able to turn the key and leave, that's hard to do when you gotta worry about who's gonna plow the snow take care of this or that, make sure the heat's on," said Herbert Tousley, who teaches real estate at the University of St. Thomas.

Tousley says seniors are good for the downtown market.

"They've probably been in their houses for a long time, so yeah they come out with a lot of equity, so a lot of these people are able to pay cash or a big percentage down on one of these condos downtown," he said.

Borja says that to live without taking care of a house offers its own kind of freedom. The Borjas are hoping to have a bite soon so they can scoop up a condo of their own, just like the Kollens did.

Many of those choosing to live downtown are snowbirds or have second homes.

For this story, we found people who were 51 up to 92.

As for the drawbacks of downtown living, residents say storage is minimal and there's not much room for guests. However, they say it's a small price to pay.

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