Birdseye view of suburbia - The growth of an urban living philosophy within suburban reaches

Society is constantly changing. The way we live, work and relax is ever-evolving and elements of our everyday life are always undertaking advancements and developments.

One of the biggest areas currently undergoing change is how and where we live. Long gone are the days of folk wanting to settle down in a quaint development to see out their days. Aspirational homebuyers, whether they be downsizers, upgraders or families, are challenging entrenched new home and development design protocols. People are craving for a city centre living experience in new, innovative spaces – they want a new meaning for the phrase ‘suburban living’, bringing excitement, practicality and the environment together.

But how can suburban areas adopt an urban living state of mind, whilst still maintaining the peace and tranquillity desired by the homebuyers of today? Unsuburbia has explored how a different by design way of living can be implemented to bring a new choice for British home buyers.

Getting the centre city, out of the city

There’s nothing quite like the buzz of a city centre. Each one has its own personality and creative energies that make living an urban lifestyle an appealing proposition. But what if you want a thriving slice of the city, yet don’t want all the hustle and bustle?

It might seem the best option for a young millennial, but once that constant buzz has saturated itself and you get a few years on your shoulders, it could be time to retreat from the centre to a more suburban lifestyle.

Plus, the city centre isn’t for everyone. It isn’t perfect for forward-thinking families who still want thriving activity but need green space. They need to move to an area that has a community focus and has adopted an urban development philosophy.

You don’t have to abandon all hope of experiencing a vibrant city lifestyle though. State-of-the-art developments around the world are designed to bring the best of city, out of the city. It’s about expanding the limits of a city, not casting homebuyers out into a social abyss.

The Essex Crossing development in Lower East Side, Manhattan, New York, embodies the ideology of expanding the city limits further, through the creation of homes, retail facilities and transport links, to mix together the suburb’s rich history with modern day NYC. A similar design philosophy can be seen at Amsterdam’s Centre Island (locally known as Centrumeiland), where artificial islands will provide up to 1,200 homes once completed. The aim is to expand the distinctive spirit of Amsterdam onto the archipelago, appeasing both the need for more housing and the want to live an urbanised lifestyle in a suburban area.

Knowledgeable buyers will have confidence in the decisions they make around the locations in which they choose to live, so having the access to city centre-standard facilities in the suburb will confirm their choice. Restaurants, cafes, bars and entertainment offerings can turn a secluded suburb into something totally different, a new type of neighbourhood. It becomes an expansion of the city, and a more attractive proposition to prospective purchasers.

A study by Oxford University found that those in urban living quarters are more active and socially engaged than those living on the outskirts of the city, perhaps down to a perceived ‘lack of anything going on’ in suburbia. But with the cities expanding outwards, the opportunity for suburban dwellers to re-engage in social events and occasions is heightened massively.

Maintaining a relationship with nature

It’s a quintessentially British opinion that the countryside is where we all wish to live. In a poll undertaken by Country Life, 60 per cent of participants commented on the desire to live out in the country rather than a city – yet only 14 per cent actually do. The idea of moving into the greenery, rolling hills and quaint towns of the countryside may seem the dream, but the realities of living in a backwater village are far different.

But to be at one with nature, there is no need to be like everyone else and head for the middle of nowhere. It’s about enjoying the outdoor life, without being isolated or secluded from a thriving lifestyle. This is a key benefit of this new idea of expanding cities and something becoming an increasingly-popular desire of homebuyers.

Within the limits of a city centre, you’re unlikely to be able to live a life entwined with nature, barring a few public parks or pseudo-public spaces, which tend to be privately-owned. This lack of greenspace demotes creativity, imagination, character and the feeling of freedom. It makes it uninspiring and this could be a huge swaying factor for all buyers.

Collaboration is vital – you need to have the balance of a modernistic, well-designed home within a setting that allows you to connect with the rural and semi-rural, as well as access the best of what the city has to offer.

The likes of wooded valleys, riverside walks and green spaces all play a pivotal role in expanding cities, creating a suburb that has homes and amenities befitting of a city centre whilst being located in tranquillity of nature.

Not following the design flock

A suburb like this can’t just follow the norm – it needs to be developed by those with the desire and capability to subvert, and better, mainstream residential development design. The anti-mainstream, if you will. Potential buyers want that city centre vibe with a tranquil sanctuary to call home, the traditional semi-detached house you see in any other development doesn’t cut the mustard anymore. They want a home they’re proud of, that’s in an original and distinct place. They want to be part of the new idea.

Through growth of interest and demand, the emphasis is now on making a city centre/suburb hybrid through design. Innovation and creativity are two of the main tenets of urban development, so for a seamless expansion, why not carry this idea on into suburban living?

Research has found that those who live within closer proximity to one another are most social and active thanks to having the amenities near them. This creates community spirit.

The concept of strong communities is being lent to the expanding city, through innovative design boosting the chance of homeowner interaction. Socialising is a huge aspect of the city centre way of life. Having the appropriate hubs and offerings, such as cafes to meet up in or societies and clubs to join, as part of the overall suburban landscape, only helps advocate the expanding city. You don’t have to go into town to do or experience things, you can do it in your neighbourhood.

Not only that, it’s about having pedestrianised streets and squares – like a university campus – to give the feel of an expanded city. Sipping lattes in a piazza, people allowed to cycle around, great transport connections all add to a city centre ethos in a suburban environment. These ideas are unheard of within mainstream residential development – they are designed to disrupt and bring a new choice of living.

Getting from A to B without the hassle

According to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 3.7 million people in the UK have to commute for two hours or more to get to work and back, with the average commute duration lasting just over 57 minutes.

Taking the train is one of the most popular methods of transport to get to work, especially for those living in the suburbs and needing to access city centres or central stations to catch connecting train. But with the ethos of expanding cities becoming more prevalent, suburban developments are becoming different by design and offering easy access to train facilities with short journey times into the nearby cities.

It’s an ideology not too dissimilar from the London Underground or the tram networks seen in Manchester and Sheffield – you can feel like you’re still within the limits of the ‘big city’ thanks to an efficient and regular connection, whilst enjoying the serenity of a cool, modernist suburb.

Giving residents the chance to catch a train into the city centre in six minutes gives off a “close, but not too close” vibe, you’re living in the extended city, not in the heart of it.

The same can be said for the road connections. Providing suburbs with extended bus services and bus lanes, alongside well thought out roadmaps to major routes is an urban philosophy. It’s about having efficient and effective roads in place, so residents can get where they need to be, as easy as can be.

Everything changes for the better. We are undergoing a positive revolution in terms of urban design and the needs of today’s homebuyers. City centre ideas are being expanded to suburban reaches through innovative design, to create a thriving community and atmosphere that wouldn’t look out of place in the heart of a metropolis.