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


Featured Surban Articles


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


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 Insight

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


Interested in Consumer and Product Insight or DesignLens?

Jenni Lantz To learn more about how you can better develop your next community, marketing strategy, or new product design, please contact Jenni Lantz at (720) 328-1530 or by email.