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Cities endured decades of shrinking populations fueled by an exodus of young and old who found refuge from crime, racial tension and poverty in suburbia. When cities began to invest in their neighborhoods with new housing and rail systems and lured entrepreneurs, the turnaround happened. Cities don't want to see the pattern reverse again.

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of 41, about a quarter have moved to the suburbs.

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Gucci Belt Gg Buckle

The challenges are huge but as urban residents transition from singles playgrounds to tot lots, the momentum is building:

"This Millennial generation is the generation that decides where it's going to live before it decides what it's going to do," says William Fulton, president of policy and research at Smart Growth America, a non profit national coalition against Gucci Belt Gg Buckle suburban sprawl. "The stakes are very high. . There are two big quality of life things that become important when you have kids: schools and recreational activities."

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"They make clear the kinds of things they want to see," says Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory, who created a Young Professionals Kitchen Cabinet when he took office in 2006. "We've got to work fast. Think how accustomed they are to speed. . They expect it. They also expect things within their community to transform at a much faster rate."

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The stakes are high because the oldest of 86 million Millennials are turning 30 this year, a time when many marry and start families. This giant demographic wave is even larger than the 77 million strong Baby Boomers that have dominated social and cultural trends for decades.

Cities recognize this looming challenge and are bracing for the maturing of a generation that sought out coffeehouses, hip entertainment venues and small flats but now is starting to demand soccer fields, good schools and roomy homes.

Hanging on to residents as they age, make more money and have kids is a plus for cities because it strengthens and stabilizes the tax base while creating an involved constituency. Plus, it's a return on the investment they made to woo young people in the first place concert halls, sports arenas, bike trails and more.

An urban renaissance unfolded as the number of people living in America's downtowns soared, construction of condos and loft apartments boomed and once derelict neighborhoods thrived. In many of the largest cities in the most populous metropolitan areas, downtown populations grew at double digit rates from 2000 to 2010, according to the Census.

The hot pursuit of young professionals has been at the core of American cities' urban revival for more than a decade. It worked. They came, they played, they stayed.

Story HighlightsCities face a new demographic reality as young and single ageYoung professionals were the core of America urban revivalAs Millennials have kids, cities must compete with suburbia

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And there's safety, housing, child care and outdoor space. "It's an enormous topic of conversation for city planners and politicians even if their constituents are older, because they're concerned about where their kids and grandchildren are going to live," Fulton says. "The question isn't so much getting families out of the suburbs into cities but getting them to stay in the cities."

The growing urban constituency of hipster parents is not timid about making itself heard. Educated and in professional jobs, they are equipped to organize and galvanize.

move the most," says Richard Florida, whose book The Rise of the Creative Class published 10 years ago helped spark the wooing of young professionals to revive declining urban centers. "So capturing people early on in their lives in a metro really matters. It's important to compete with suburbs for people once they get a little older and have children."

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"We know young people Gucci Belts Images

´╗┐American cities fighting to keep Millennials from moving to suburbs

Ella Kibblewhite Claus, 10, right, and her sister Matariki, 8, play on the south public lawn of the newly opened Devon Energy Center.(Photo: Louis Vuitton Belt Brown Silver Buckle

"Cities began renewal efforts by offering a young adult focused lifestyle," says Robert Lang, urban affairs professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. "It was like an extension of dorm life after college. Cities assumed that they would get to the business of improving schools and providing more family services later. Well, now it's later."

Schools. Poor or unsafe schools can make it or break it for the most ardent urbanites. The swelling number of city dwellers on the verge of deciding whether they'll stay or go has become a vocal lobby for change.

'An extension of dorm life'

Now, cities face a new demographic reality: The young and single are aging and having children. If the pattern of the past 50 years holds, they might soon set their sights on suburbia.

New York's Battery Park City in Lower Manhattan was one of the first neighborhoods to go through this demographic transformation, Lang says. "Within 10 years, people made requests for grammar schools," he says. "Cities are recognizing that. They want to hold on to and stabilize the tax base."

The older they get, the less likely people are to live in cities, according to recent Census data. The peak age for urban living is 25 to 27, when 20% of that age group are nestled in urban centers. By the age Gucci Belt Red And Green

Brett Deering for USA TODAY)

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