How hipsters as well as many other fleeing city-dwellers could remake the suburbs

From Brooklyn to Boca Raton, the once ultra-hip urban core of America’s cities now finds itself beyond the reach of many of the professionals who helped make it so desirable. These former residents are fleeing big metropolises in search of affordable rents and mortgages, safe schools, and open space. But they still crave the comforts of urban life—walkable neighborhoods, vibrant food and culture, access to the city—and, where these features don’t yet exist, they may bring these qualities with them.

This migration marks a new take on the move by an earlier generation, which left cities out of fear for their safety due to rising crime rates. Now, city dwellers are leaving because they simply can’t afford to live there.

Neighborhoods shift

This shift has become a large enough trend that some realtors now specialize in it. One realtor spends much of her time moving New Yorkers out of New York (85 percent from Brooklyn alone), to “laid back” villages and towns in Westchester, along the Hudson River, and in suburban New Jersey—areas once thought of as boring bedroom communities.

The youngest (and largest) generation makes up a significant portion of those making this move. According to global real estate company CRBE, approximately 103,000 more millennials ages 25 to 29 moved out of cities than moved in, and 167,000 more ages 20 to 24 did the same.

Granted, some of this migration can be attributed to underemployed young professionals moving back into their parents’ basements – but a significant portion moved to find a more affordable lifestyle. And it doesn’t stop with millennials. The numbers for Gen X are even more striking: 660,000 more fled cities than settled in them.

Where are they going?

Yes, these young professionals are heading to the suburbs. But not just any ‘burbs will do.

No sprawling neighborhoods with few sidewalks surrounded by causeways clogged with big box stores. For these former urbanites, a healthy mix of affordable housing, locally-based food culture, and cultural literacy are necessary ingredients to complement the leafy-green streets. Towns like Irvington and Hastings in New York, Homewood, and Berwyn near Chicago, and Doral and Plantation in South Florida have stepped up to fill the bill.

Developers have noticed. Many towns within striking distance of the Big Apple have significant building projects underway and in the planning stages:

  • Westchester County saw a seven-fold increase in rental units from 2015 to 2018.
  • The value of new developments in Yonkers grew 50 percent from 2015 to 2016.
  • New Rochelle is in the midst of a $4 billion redevelopment plan.
  • White Plains, Sleepy Hollow, and Ossining are among the towns undergoing similar growth.

What do they want?

In short, these new transplants want the best of urban life, through a suburban lens:

  • Schools. Educating children in urban schools can be a challenge. Suburbs often have fewer students per teacher, and more resources on hand.
  • Walkable downtowns. Former city dwellers are setting up shop on main streets across suburbia, transforming downtowns into havens for artisanal chic.
  • Vibrant food culture. Like their shopkeeper counterparts, restauranteurs and mixologists are bringing the farm-to-table aesthetic a step closer to the farms themselves.
  • Access to the city. Many of the new and upcoming building projects are known as “transit-oriented developments” and are placed squarely in the path of commuter stations.

South Florida is seeing the CRE shift

While much of the focus of the “hipsturbia” movement has been focused on places like New York City, South Florida is no stranger to the trend. Some CRE developers have increasingly turned their attention away from downtowns like Miami, West Palm, and Fort Lauderdale to put down stakes in the likes of Doral, Plantation, Sunrise, and Boca Raton. Indeed, 64 percent of new construction in South Florida has moved to these suburban markets.

Chief among the reasons for this shift are workers reaching their breaking point on commute times and traffic congestion. On the developer side, land costs are significantly less, sometimes by as much as $10 to $15 a square foot.

Make no mistake, the vibrant urban cores of our cities aren’t going anywhere. But just as a rising tide lifts all boats, the suburbs are now seeing a real share of that vibrancy come to their communities. We at Morris Southeast Group are excited to see where this trend leads and are ready to work with you on your CRE project, no matter the locale. Call us at 954.474.1776 for a free consultation on commercial real estate investment or property management services. You can also reach Ken Morris directly at 954.240.4400 or via email at


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