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August 2017

"Sharers" seek "surban" housing

What was once a golf course 20 miles from Philadelphia has been redeveloped into a surban™ -- a name coined by John Burns Real Estate Consulting to describe urban-like developments in the suburbs that appeal to a demographic that once scoffed at such destinations.

"The same people who drove urban demand from 2005-2015 are about to drive demand for surban housing in inner-ring suburbs, especially those in mature and slower-growing cities," reported Annie Radecki, senior manager at the Burns firm.

In her report about these emerging developments, Radecki cites the Village at Valley Forge as an example of a mixed-use, transit-oriented lifestyle environment that will appeal to a segment the Burns group has dubbed "Sharers" (those born in the 1980s).

Radecki and her colleagues believe various factors will sustain the shift to "surban," including:

  • 1980s Sharers who don't like driving can minimize commutes or be close to transit that doesn't require a car.
  • Older Main streets offer the authenticity Sharers crave.
  • High quality grocery stores accommodate Sharers' "thriftiness and foodi-ness."
  • Better schools.
  • Yard with room for dogs and/or toddlers.

Located at the confluence of the region's four major highways and adjacent to the iconic King of Prussia Mall, the Village encompasses its own town center with a full calendar of community events. Residents can walk to a 24-hour Wegmans Food Center, REI, several healthy fast casual restaurants, and trails. Bike trails and a new Children's Hospital of Pennsylvania are also part of the amenities that appeal to older millennials.

When built out, the property will have 2,000 residential units, 500,000 square feet of retail with dozens of dining and entertainment options, two hotels and one million square feet of mid-rise office and healthcare space.

The Brownstones, a "Surban" Environment (photo)Residential choices include luxury apartments, townhomes, condominiums and active adult and senior living residences. Among the builders is Toll Brothers whose brownstone buildings boast "modern open floor plan designs with optional basements and roof terraces" and a private gated dog run onsite.

The Burns group notes builders in Philadelphia successfully sold exurban home to family buyers fleeing the city in the early 2000s. Now, demand for these homes has evaporated, in part because Sharers delayed home purchases and opted to live in "gritty yet trendy" places like Fishtown, a working-class neighborhood described by some as "Philly's truest harbor of artistic, culinary and musical action."

Based on the popularity of the Village at Valley Forge and similar redevelopments, the Burns consultants say successful builders are shifting their focus to suburban infill neighborhoods in the "little towns" of the inner-ring suburbs.

One reason? America's population of twenty-somethings grew by 4.7 million people from 2005-2015 but is projected to decline slightly from 2015-2025. While that cohort is expected to shrink by 0.1 percent in the near future, the empty nester segment (ages 55-65) will experience a net growth of 655,000, for a rate of 1.6 percent during the same 2015-2025 timeframe.