Town Centers in Suburbia


2017 March Blog

Town Centers in Suburbia

One of the most exciting advancements in American habitat development is the emergence of mixed use “Town Centers” in suburban locations and municipalities. They have occurred and are occurring in several large city suburbs across the country to enhance residential development areas with profitable additions to serve new as well as existing residents.

The Urban Land Institute recently completed case studies on two of these types of “Town Centers” with one located in suburban Atlanta, Georgia (Avalon) and another in Raleigh, North Carolina (North Hills). Both are designed as gathering places to serve local residents with diverse facilities that complement the residential environs. The sense of place achieved in both settings is the primary attractor for both developments. Consumers feel comfortable in spending time in their open spaces as well as shopping and dining in their retail offerings. A significant number are comfortable enough to move down from large homes to the integrated multi-family offerings.

At Avalon in the suburban setting of Alpharetta, Georgia, the first phase of the 2.3 million square foot site is focused on a main street with retail, restaurant, office and multi-family offerings on Avalon Boulevard with twenty foot wide sidewalks adjoined by a variety of green space designed for public events and activities as well as passive recreation. A significant feature is a sixty foot wide fountain that proves inviting to visitors of all ages. The surrounding space has power outlets at the perimeter for entertainers and kiosk tenants. Smaller open spaces have distinctive names with their own amenities including such things as a fire pit, bocce court and Adirondack chairs. The developer, North American Properties, has created an appealing experience at Avalon.

North Hills outside of Raleigh, North Carolina has arranged three distinct districts within its 1.06 million square foot site: Lassiter, Main, and Park. The plan, streetscapes and traffic calming inserts create a friendly and appealing pedestrian experience. The Main district’s low-rise shops and office buildings, coupled with the Park District’s ground floor restaurants and retail shops with offices above create a downtown environment with a walking appeal. This district contains the main gathering place with an outdoor stage hosting some 450 events annually. Underground parking ensures convenient access for visitors. It has created spaces that people want to be in.

Both of these “Town Centers” rely upon diverse and distinctive retail offerings as the prime attraction, although the appeal of the gathering places for all ages clearly are a popular support.  North Hills contains over 80 shops, almost 40 restaurants, a 14 screen cinema, bowling lanes, and a health club scattered throughout the property combining national chains with local retailers to create unique experiences. Avalon caters to the more affluent tastes of local residents with higher price retail offerings. But both Town Centers have strong appeal to an increasing number of local residents.

March, 2017
Dr. David F. Parker
Parker Associates

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