Older Millennials Leaving the City

Annie Radecki

Annie Radecki

July 25, 2017

The top-grossing restaurant in the Philadelphia metro used to be a French bistro in ritzy Rittenhouse Square, but a suburban mini-chain is now hot on its heels. Philadelphia restauranteurs scoff at its success because City Works lies 20 miles outside of the actual city in the mixed-use Village at Valley Forge in King of Prussia, PA.

Before the redevelopment of a failed golf course into a surban™ center, the King of Prussia area was best known for its regional mall, IKEA, bad traffic, and empty, dated office buildings. Today, the suburban Village at Valley Forge offers a full calendar of community events, 24-hour Wegmans, REI, several healthy fast casual restaurants, bike trails, walking trails, and a new Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania. Hanover and Cornerstone offer luxury apartments, and Bozzuto recently broke ground on the area’s first age-restricted (55+) apartments. Toll Brothers recently opened the Brownstones at the Village at Valley Forge and have sold almost 40 units since opening last fall.

If you ask a Sharer (our nickname for those born in the 1980s) living in the city about who’s moving to surban (our nickname for urban-like developments in the suburbs) developments like this one, five years ago she might have replied, “I don’t know why anyone would move out there.” Ask now, and she might report friends who got tired of a long and congested reverse commute and moved closer to work. Another friend, who had her first child, got yelled at for blocking the aisle at an urban Whole Foods with his stroller and liked that Wegmans (a spacious and high-quality local chain) was within walking distance rather than over the bridge in New Jersey.

In the early 2000s, builders in Philadelphia successfully sold exurban homes to family buyers fleeing the city. Demand for these homes evaporated as Sharers delayed home purchases, choosing to live in places like gritty (yet trendy) Fishtown. Today, that glut of exurban move-up homes remains, and successful builders have shifted their focus to suburban infill neighborhoods in the “little towns” of the inner-ring suburbs.

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. America’s population for 20-somethings grew by 4.7 million people from 2005–2015 and is projected to decline slightly from 2015–2025.

Here are some more reasons for the shift to surban that our consulting and demographics teams have noted:

  • 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 foodie-ness.
  • Better schools
  • Yards have room for dogs and/or toddlers.

The Village at Valley Forge is just one of many successful projects around the country our consulting team has visited or helped our clients develop. Contact us to find out how we can help you identify surban opportunities with our proprietary tools and custom consulting analysis.

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About The Author

Annie Radecki
Annie Radecki
Senior Vice President, Consulting
Annie has over 15 years of experience in real estate and urban planning and has worked nationally on housing serving all buyer and renter types, including entry-level and active adult. Before joining John Burns Real Estate Consulting in 2015, Annie led the Market Intelligence function for PulteGroup’s Texas divisions, developing local segmentation, acquisition, and operational strategies and worked with the builder’s Pacific Northwest and Southeast markets.

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