Urban Suburbia: Can it beat the city?

Posted by Steve Kleber on Nov 08, 2010

Welcome to the Kleber & Associates blog! Urban Suburbia: Can it beat the city?  Here’s the latest.


Buildings with industrial spice, lofts with exposed brick and a modern flair, boutiques and shops within walking distance… everything you expect to find in city life, right? Most people who move to a big city have one thing in mind: access to everything and more.

But for those who’d rather stay in suburbia, there is real hope for a life that feels, acts and is urban…sort of. For some, “downtown” is a state of mind.

Before the downturn of the economy, new construction was everywhere. Home building was at an all-time high, and strip malls were popping up everywhere as well. Although we’re seeing some development start again as the economy rebounds, many companies in charge of planning, execution and branding of new developments – both inside and outside of the city – are focusing on creating sleek and modern places that have access to just about anything. With that idea in mind, it’s apparent that America’s physical and cultural landscapes are shifting as city life can now be replicated just about anywhere.

In “Surrogate Cities,” John King is surprised to find crisp and modern three-story buildings in a suburb 40 miles north of San Francisco. Called CentreVille, it’s marketing brochure boasts “exciting and modern architectural design…city style and luxury in the heart of downtown.” After taking a closer look around him, he comes to the conclusion that CentreVille might be “a textbook case of real estate marketing hubris,” but applauds suburbs that are happy to attempt the recreation of the urban scenes that make up city life – minus the hipsters. Still, he feels that urban authenticity has nothing to do with iPods, Netflix, Urban Outfitters and Starbucks…and more to do with scenes being rooted in an actual place. Something he feels has a lot to do with age.

King goes on to admit that easy access to what he calls “the edge” isn’t a product of today, but started when MTV introduced the “gangsta” life to suburban teens in the late 1980s. Today, the difference lies in entire home building projects that are offering their own slice of urbanity, which King feels is “urban make-believe.”

Many who have lived and breathed city life will probably agree with King. For those who yearn to live in a polished and open, close-to-everything town, but have no desire to deal with the daily hustle and bustle of a city like San Francisco or New York City, a place like CentreVille is for you. King suggests that these places are missing the unexpected, but many argue that urban suburbia offers just as much if not more.

Can the ‘burbs offer an urban utopia that replicates the panache of the city? You decide.

This entry was posted by Steve Kleber on Monday, November 8th, 2010 at 2:40 pm and is filed under Home Building & Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.