Just as cities have continuously evolved over the past half century, so, too, have suburbs. Though many suburbs in the post–World War era were built as bedroom communities where private spaces—single-family homes, expansive backyards, and members-only pools and clubs—took precedence over public ones, the desire for common gathering places never went away. Walkability, too, has become a community attribute increasingly valued but rarely achieved in many single-use suburban developments where owning a car is a necessity.
More than ever, consumers want to experience the look, feel, and convenience of downtown—even if they live miles away from the city. Newer suburban developments have embraced the idea of a vibrant and inviting public realm and mixed-use environments to go with it. Though the town center concept is not new, it is being reinvented and adapted to a variety of contexts.
Two recent ULI case studies illustrate the appeal of town centers, particularly in affluent, highly developed suburban submarkets where consumers are seeking urban amenities in a single place that is a short drive from home or easily accessible from the interstate. Developers from Avalon in Alpharetta, Georgia, and North Hills outside Raleigh, North Carolina, reflected on their experiences with town center development during a ULI members–only webinar held in early February.