Will retail be woven into the fabric of the new, walkable suburb?
The U.S. suburbs are known for being the home of big box retailers and shopping malls — and for requiring customers to do a lot of driving to get to those locations. But the layout of the suburban landscape, and where retail fits into it, could be changing.
City dwellers who are moving to the suburbs still want to enjoy some of the perks of urban life, which is leading to new pedestrian-centric suburban developments, according to The Wall Street Journal. These developments feature homes interwoven between shops, grocery stores, restaurants and the like. Such mixed-use retail developments have begun to appear in Arizona, Florida, Massachusetts and Texas. Retail owners are also beginning to build residential complexes close to, or even on top of, existing shopping centers, mall spaces and stores.
The trend in suburban development makes sense in light of survey data from this year’s National Association of Realtors’ 2017 Community and Transportation Preference Survey as reported on Inman Connect. Fifty-one percent of respondents said that walkability is important to their quality of life. Forty-one percent of respondents with incomes below $50,000 said that walkability and access to public transit was very important in deciding where to live.
Mixed-use suburbs could provide people with lower incomes the spaciousness and green space of traditional suburbs along with the shorter commutes and walkability they desire. Not to mention skyrocketing rents in some major American cities may make life in the suburbs a more manageable option for families with lower incomes.
This trend comes as many chains known for their suburban big box footprints have begun launching revamped store concepts meant to work better in urban environments.
Target, for instance, has had success with its small-format urban stores, which have demonstrated productivity twice that of its regular locations. Midwest grocer Meijer also recently announced the launch of a small format aimed at urban environments.
But if the layout of suburbs is really changing, these smaller-format concepts pioneered for urban landscapes could eventually find a place outside of the city.
Such a new paradigm for development could also provide a place to relocate for retailers struggling in once-popular, now desolate shopping malls.
- Where the New Retail Space Is Being Built (Hint: It’s Not in Malls) – The Wall Street Journal
- Why are Target’s small stores much more productive than its big boxes? – RetailWire
- Will its newest small store format make Meijer a downtown destination? – RetailWire
- Walkability is high on homebuyers’ wish lists – Inman Connect
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Should retailers be considering concepts and real estate investments that will build them into the fabric of the new walkable suburb? What opportunities does the trend offer for traditional mall-based retailers and big box retailers?