“Surban” living, Empty Nester meets Nester

As new empty nesters, Lance and his wife Sarah wanted to find a walkable “European lifestyle” where they could walk to the butcher, the baker and have good restaurants nearby. Having their youngest daughter move out over the summer, after living with them for two years after college, they wanted comfy accommodates for their kids to visit but wanted to shed all the house maintenance chores. They were starved for more lively weekend scene with packed restaurants and sidewalk cafes everywhere.

Little did they know that their oldest daughter, Mira, now settled in her career, recently married and pondering children was figuring out how to expand from their studio rental apartment. The priorities for this couple was remaining free of car payments, good public schools and lots of weekend activities. With children on the mind, having a live out babysitter/nanny was preferred so mass transportation was an important factor.

Ended up that Lance and Sarah’s condominium community just outside Chicago was also a great choice for Mira and her husband Sam. Added bonus nearby yoga classes and also found a great babysitting services in the area.

I am reading a great new book called Big Shifts Ahead by John Burns and Chris Porter. This book breaks new ground in that it challenges the conventional Boomer, Gen X, Millennial labels. By simply constructing cohorts by decade it delivers finer precision around insights that drive consumer behavior and is, therefore, more actionable.

One trend this book uncovers is the coming demand for smaller homes with little or no yards in high population areas that will address the changing demography. The authors of The Big Shift coined this as “Surban” living, bringing the best of urban living meshed with the affordability aspects suburban factors.

Why is this a growing trend? Urban living captures 21% of household growth in the first half of 2010’s double it’s usual capture rate. Cities devoted billions to clean up their downtowns and drove the urban growth. At the same time, the demand for better schools and greater healthcare drove suburban growth. The mesh of both urban and suburban qualities are attractive due to four big influencers.

  1. Government concentrated investment in reviving downtown, with less dollars on highways to connect people to more rural areas.
  2. Economy and job growth more likely in urban like settings.
  3. Technology factors such smartphone location and payment technology and use of Uber to live car-free.
  4. Societal shifts which includes starting families later in life, the desire for more local activities and friendships spurred by the influence of social media and the importance of blended families.

Overall the trend here is that suburban, including Surban, will capture 79% of household growth over the next 10 years and urban growth will capture 15%.

  • Big Shifts Ahead: Demographic Clarity for Business, by John Burns and Chris Porter