IN RECENT YEARS, real estate investors and developers have been seeing increased market demand for suburban projects with an “urban feel.” Suburban governments are adopting new goals for urban-style redevelopment featuring urban streetscapes and public spaces. This is not just a design goal favored by theorists; it’s the market talking. The result can be faster absorption, higher occupancy and higher rents, particularly for new office space.
Urban development in the suburbs calls for a mixed-use, mid- to high-rise approach. It means walkable sidewalks that create a stronger feeling of community, as well as retail and office storefronts and buildings that help shape this kind of rich and lively public realm, an 18-hour-a-day scene. “Walkable” means more than just walking to your car; it means compact, dense, inviting development. Locations already accessible by transit and those that are transit-ready are ideal for this type of redevelopment. Walkable and transit-served design also reduces parking requirements. While the costs of mechanical systems in mixed-use buildings typically are higher than those in single-use structures, the suburban shift to taller buildings should result in lower costs per resident, employee or customer. A longer-lived building and a different value proposition may justify higher initial costs. A more durable, sustainable building may, in turn, help improve an owner or tenant’s brand image. Private and public spaces become more distinctive and lasting. As employees, residents, shoppers and visitors identify more with these places, this too enhances community engagement.