6. Don’t forget retail. Along with residents and offices, retail becomes another catalyst. “Simply put, retail and office will fail without residents, and residents will not stay or come without retail or office. This may seem obvious but even urban areas fail at this aspect when transitioning neighborhoods,” Luckino says.
In fact, everything should be close by. Scherer says multifamily buildings should be no more than five minutes from coffee bars, grocery stores, and entertainment, while Zinder recommends grab-and-go kiosks that operate after hours. Such features do more. They have been shown to encourage people to walk farther, which is a health benefit, says Mouzon. And they add a direct economic win for developers, says Gibbs. “Apartments generally rent for 12% more if a coffee shop or green grocery like a Whole Foods is located within a 10-minute walk,” he says.
But attracting retail to the suburbs, especially in the current environment, is far from easy, says Jeff Berta, senior director of real estate for Structured Development, a Chicago-based real estate development company. The answer for both suburbs—as well as cities, even large ones—may lie in seeking retailers that have learned the importance of experiential features that consumers seem to find more relevant rather than stacks of merchandise. Entrepreneurial leaders like Apple are rolling out ideas such as workshops and classes.