Suburbs, Where Everyone Goes?

It is beginning to seem like it, as this article from the Orange County Register reports.

An excerpt.

Over the past decade, the old urban model, long favored by most media and academia, became the harbinger of the new city. We were going back to the 19th century, with rising dense urban cores, greater densities and thriving transit systems.

That paradigm now lives on in myth and media, but not so much in reality. As the census data this year, and indeed since at least 2012, suggests, Americans continue to do what they have done for at least a half century – spread out, innovate and, in the process, re-create the urban form.

Growth shifts to smaller places

Over the past several decades, the welcome recovery of select urban “legacy” cores – San Francisco; Chicago; Seattle; Washington, D.C.; and, most importantly, New York – has dominated the discussion of the urban future. Now these areas are experiencing a decline in growth rates, largely due to accelerating out-migration.

In contrast, the fastest growth is taking place in sprawling areas like Riverside-San Bernardino and Sunbelt metros such as Dallas; Orlando, Fla.; Phoenix and Las Vegas. These areas now lead in gains of both people and, increasingly, jobs. Midwestern redoubts like Columbus, Ohio; Indianapolis, Ind.; Omaha, Neb.; and Des Moines, Iowa; are growing far faster than core-dominated regions like New York, Chicago or San Francisco.

Overwhelmingly, suburbs are where most growth is happening. Since 2010 suburbs and exurbs have produced roughly 80 percent of all new jobs. Even tech growth is shifting, with more of the action taking place in like Orlando, Charlotte, N.C. (each at 7 percent); Grand Rapids, Mich. (6 percent ); Salt Lake City; Tampa, Fla.; Seattle; Raleigh, N.C.; Miami and Las Vegas.

The new office culture

The towering office edifices, inhabited by large companies with thousands of employees, long have been the signature of great cities. Increasingly, even in these reasonably good times, office growth has fallen to less than half that experienced in previous decades. Even hot markets such as Dallas, San Francisco and New York are showing signs of slowing; over-hyped downtown Los Angeles, despite some well-publicized recent wins, is now approaching vacancy rates over 18 percent.

San Francisco and Seattle, the two regions that dominate the digital economy, are exceptions in enjoying large-scale, big-company absorption of new office space. This is increasingly rare; the near hysteria surrounding the potential location of Amazon’s second headquarters – with promises of some 50,000 jobs – reflects the paucity of large-scale corporate expansion in any geography.

The new trend seems to be not permanent, long-term tenancy but a shift to more flexible, often smaller, space, often in “co-working” arrangements; Los Angeles County alone has 61 such spaces. Even in attractive Irvine, one O.C. executive explained, “Our average office tenant probably has 30 employees, and the clear majority are within 10-100 employees.”

The reshaping of suburbia

Such changes are also impacting suburbia, long a draw for large corporate offices. Suburban office parks in Westchester County, N.Y., Orange County or west Houston are being retrofitted, as one Houston developer puts it, to promote a “workstyle” that offers more amenities and accommodates more creative, less hierarchical workplaces.

This reflects the need to find acceptable working environments to accommodate suburbia’s mounting in-migration of millennials, minorities and immigrants. In Southern California, with its plethora of creative talent, attempts to house innovative companies rely heavily on a cocktail of amenities, including those related to entertainment, cultural activity and design.

One promising model can be seen in Costa Mesa, where the new development called The Press will feature three acres of outdoor space, a fireplace, basketball court and other amenities. It is designed, in contrast to traditional corporate office space, to meet the needs of such creative industries such as fashion, entertainment and even biomedical startups.

Retrieved April 16, 2018 from

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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