The Rise of “Surban” Living

What is “Surban” Living?

The term “surban,” which was coined by John Burns Real Estate Consulting, refers to a suburban community that offers the amenities and conveniences that urban areas typically offer. Surban communities are distinguished by their low crime rates, high quality of schools, access to public transportation, a variety of restaurants, boutique shopping and walkable, village-like layout. Also known as “mixed-use,” these areas combine living space, retail, restaurants and other amenities in close proximity, but at a more approachable scale than your typical major city. Examples in the Delmarva (DMV) area would include Bethesda, Columbia and Reston, VA, all of which have taken advantage of this new trend. Their town centers reflect the surban aesthetic with a mix of residential spaces, offices, restaurants, shopping, accessible public transportation, entertainment venues, parks and more that allow their residents to live, work and play all in the same space.


How Does Surban Living Appeal to a Variety of Demographics?

As Millennials begin to start families and Baby Boomers begin to enter retirement, both of these demographics—who make up more than 40% of the total U.S. population—are seeking new ways of living. Because of the need to downsize as their children “leave the nest,” but with a desire to age-in-place, and thus have access to amenity-rich neighborhoods, it is expected that more than five million Boomers will rent their next home in a surban community 2020 as opposed to buying a smaller, detached home. Additionally, Millennials have proven slow to purchase new homes, likely due to high student loan debt and a trend toward later marriage, and the majority of Millennials currently rent or seek to rent their next living space.


Enter the surban neighborhood, which has the ability to appeal to both of these major demographics. In surban living, Baby Boomers have access to amenities within walking distance, as well as easy access to public transportation, which proves beneficial for this aging population. It also aligns with this generation’s growing desire to age in place, as a surban environment helps them to avoid isolation and seek enriching experiences as they reach their golden years. Low crime rates make surban areas safe and accessible for Boomers as well.


For Millennials, the surban environment features favorable school systems, which are vital for couples who are beginning to start a family. Surban living also offers a lower cost of living combined with access to unique retail, fun restaurants, music festivals, community events and other amenities that Millennials favor when living in more urbanized areas. Millennials are also attracted to the recreational spaces that surban environments often provide, allowing for Millennials to pursue enjoyable outdoor experiences.    


How Will Bluestem Fit into the Surban Landscape?

The Bluestem development is the ultimate iteration of a surban environment, serving as a hub that will connect the Bare Hills community with Lake Roland park and that will provide urban amenities, similar to Remington Row or The Rotunda, in a space that is walkable with a village-like feel. The Bare Hills community is rich in educational opportunities and also features low crime rates, highlighting some of the key features of surban neighborhoods.


Because Bluestem will be a mixed-use space, community members will have access to a unique retail experience, local restaurants and entertainment venues, as well as a variety of housing opportunities. Office space will also feature within the Bluestem development, which will provide employment opportunities for residents of Bluestem and community members alike. The Bluestem development is also within walking distance of the MTA bus and Light Rail service, providing easy access to Baltimore City and other areas within Baltimore County.


As the needs of major demographics, such as Baby Boomers and Millennials, shift and evolve, Baltimore County must seek new ways of community planning and developing in order to accommodate and adapt. Many suburban areas across the country, including San Jose, CA; Plano, TX and Geneva, IL have responded to these changes with new, mixed-use spaces that create a surban environment. While Baltimore County has identified the need for and benefits of such spaces, implementation has not yet reached its full potential. Creating spaces that combine the best of suburban and urban environments is an effective way of meeting the needs of Millennials and Baby Boomers alike and creating the communities of the future. To learn more about how Bluestem seeks to create community-focused mixed-use space, click here.