Surban | John Burns Real Estate Consulting


Bringing the Best of Urban Life to Suburban Areas


noun | sur·ban | \ˈsər-bən\

Definition: A suburban area that has the feel of urban, with walkability to great retail from a house or apartment

Seemingly everywhere we go we see the wave of future growth, a blend of suburban and urban. We call it surban living. Urban areas abound with vibrant restaurants, public transportation, and plenty to do. But urban rents and home prices cut deeply into resident incomes. Urban schools tend to rank low, and crime tends to rank high. For all of these reasons, families tend to move to the suburbs.

Mature suburban areas took note of urban revitalization. City leaders redeveloped their downtowns or zoned an area for a vibrant mix of retail, housing, and sometimes jobs. Urban planners call these areas “mixed use,” but surban better describes the mix of urban and suburban living. We trademarked the term, but everyone has permission to use the word surban without the trademark. We just want credit for coining the phrase.


Examples of Surban Areas Include:

  • Reston Town Center in Washington, DC, suburb of Reston, Virginia
  • Downtown Naperville, Illinois, in the suburbs of Chicago
  • Old Town Pasadena, California, in the suburbs of Los Angeles
  • A-Town in Anaheim, California, in a neighborhood around the Angels Major League Baseball park
  • Legacy Town Center in Plano, Texas, in the suburbs of Dallas
  • Santana Row in San Jose, California, on a former run-down mall site
  • City Centre in Houston, Texas, on a former run-down mall site
  • Downtown Tempe, Arizona, in the suburbs of Phoenix
  • Larkspur, California, north of San Francisco, with new housing sandwiched between a top-notch high school and a rejuvenated old downtown
  • Geneva, Illinois, in the suburbs of Chicago


Learn More about Surban Living


Chapter 10: A New Surban Way of Life

Big Shifts Ahead: Demographic Clarity for Businesses

In their latest book, Big Shifts Ahead, John Burns and Chris Porter wrote a whole chapter on the shift towards surban living and it’s potential impact on businesses going forward. They support everything with easy-to-read charts and plenty of facts. Those interested in this up-and-coming trend in housing should read this book right away.

“Fantastic read and such great data as we move forward in these late innings of our ‘recovery’. I have scribbled notes all over the book as it is sure to be beyond valuable to me and EA Homes in the near and long terms. And yes, ‘surban’ is right on! We have already experienced the success ‘surban’ can deliver.”

-Caroline Simmel, SVP of Marketing at Edward Andrews Homes


How Can We Help?

John Burns Real Estate Consulting offers two solutions to help decision makers take advantage of the shift towards surban living.



Consumer and Product Insights

National Consumer Research
We have partnered with builders and developers across the nation to launch a Consumer and Product Insight survey to home shoppers who have registered at new home communities. Our first three surveys combined include more than 50,000 total responses to more than 90 questions from prospective home buyers.

Learn more


Identifying and Focusing on Great Design
Designlens is our monthly publication and online library of photo tours recognizing new home, community, and historical design. The 1000+ communities and developments depicted on DesignLens have been chosen for their innovations in architecture, design, land planning, and/or historical significance.

Learn more


Featured Surban Articles


The top 10 amenities boomer homebuyers are looking for

Yahoo Finance | December 2017

Village squares, shopping, community high-speed internet, WiFi, recreational centers, and community-wide events round out boomers’ top 10 desires. This list is nearly indiscernible from what older millennials are looking for as they move out to “surban” environments.

Read More

Urban living in a suburb? Developers say that’s the latest trend in Folsom and Davis

The Sacramento Bee | November 2017

[John Burns Real Estate Consulting], which provides research and advice nationwide, trademarked the term “surban” for “these developments bringing the best of urban living to a more affordable suburban environment.”

Read More

The Future is Urban, Even in Suburbia

The Rivard Report | October 2017

At a meeting of the San Antonio chapter of the Urban Land Institute Tuesday, architects, real estate brokers, bankers, and developers convened to hear demographer and author John Burns explain why surban – a term he coined and trademarked – will be part of the future fabric of housing and neighborhood development.

Read More


Older Millennials are leaving the city for a new kind of suburb

Yahoo Finance | August 2017

Annie Radecki, senior manager at John Burns Real Estate Consulting, says builders are now focused on creating “surban” environments, or urban-like developments in the suburbs.

Read More

Corporations are leaving suburbs: Can anything reverse the trend?

CNBC | August 2017

Some developers and planners believe that, while cities are and will continue to be a big draw, millennials won’t ignore the suburbs: They’ll simply demand more walkable, transit-friendly, city-like suburbs. John Burns Real Estate Consulting coined the term “surban” in reference to a new breed of dense, walkable developments replicating “the great American neighborhood” concept.

Read More


Drawing Buyers of All Ages to Florida’s Walkable Suburban Downtowns

Urban Land Magazine | July 2017

As a result, developers have created “surban” communities, or suburban developments built with urban living in mind. The Residences at Mercato in Naples and Downtown Doral in Miami are both prime examples of suburban communities designed to appeal to consumers for their walkability, access to shopping and entertainment, and community-centric design.

Read More

Q&A: What do millennials and Warren Buffett have in common?

Construction Dive | June 2017

There’s been plenty written about the move from suburban-style sprawl — marked by McMansions and strip malls — to more dense communities of different housing arrangements, such as town houses, apartments and single-family homes, together in the same neighborhoods. In 2017, look for a new name for it: surban.

Read More

Houston joins San Francisco, N.Y. in producing smaller returns for apartment investors

Houston Chronicle | April 2017

The report on apartment returns highlighted a shift to secondary apartment markets, characterized by less construction activity and more affordable rents, and “surban” markets, a term for desirable suburban locations with urban amenities, as emerging as spots for higher rent growth through 2020.

Read More


Housing prices on the rise in Price George’s, Montgomery

The Washington Post | March 2017

“We’re seeing what we call ‘surban’ development really take off in places like Westphalia Town Center, where people want urban amenities along with the suburban lifestyle,” said Fulton.

Read More

Is your neighborhood urban, suburban or ‘surban?’ 5 things to know about that new buzzword

OC Register | January 2017

Ever wonder how a buzzword is born? Irvine-based real estate consultant John Burns was traveling with a colleague a couple of years ago. They were talking about housing and demographics.They needed a way to describe what they saw as an increasingly popular mix: The convenience of urban amenities in more affordable, suburban settings.

Read More


5 Big Real-Estate Trends to Watch in 2017

MarketWatch | December 2016

There’s been plenty written about the move from suburban-style sprawl — marked by McMansions and strip malls — to more dense communities of different housing arrangements, such as town houses, apartments and single-family homes, together in the same neighborhoods. In 2017, look for a new name for it: surban.

Read More


Town Centers: An Urban Influence On Suburban Real Estate

Seeking Alpha | November 2016

John Burns Real Estate Consulting, LLC branded these upcoming suburban city centers “Surban” developments, which incorporate all aspects to New Urbanism.

Read More

Where People Will Want to Be: “Surban” Communities

Urban Land Institute | October 2016

“Surban” communities—suburban neighborhoods offering the most desired features of urban and suburban living—will attract the most households in the United States over the next ten years, according to a new ULI report, Demographic Strategies for Real Estate. Many people will choose to rent rather than own homes, pushing up demand for single-family rentals.

Read More


The new American suburb: diverse, dense, and booming

Curbed | October 2016

A report compiled by John Burns Real Estate Consulting for the Urban Land Institute (ULI) forecasts a trend of surban development; suburban development that brings the best of city living to more affordable areas.

Read More


Interested in learning more about surban?

Chris Porter To learn more about how you can better develop your next surban community please contact Chris Porter at (949) 870-1218 or by email.