by Dan Rafter
As more residents head to the urban centers of cities to live, what happens to the suburbs?
The downtowns of major Midwest cities are attracting a steady stream of new residents who want to ditch their cars and walk to public transportation, shops and restaurants. But as the cities nab new residents and new multifamily developments, what happens to the communities surrounding them?
The suburbs certainly aren’t going to disappear, especially those within a short commute of major cities. But planners and officials at many suburbs are making changes to attract those residents looking to do more walking and less driving.
This isn’t always easy. Suburbs have long been car-focused. But today, many suburbs are building downtown areas filled with shops, restaurants and green spaces, areas designed to give residents a destination that they can reach on foot.
Critics might dismiss these as “fake” downtowns. But many have been successful, both in generating excitement in the suburbs and in reducing the amount of driving residents do.
A good example is in Westlake, Ohio, a suburb located about 17 miles from Cleveland. This suburb is home to Crocker Park, a mixed-use lifestyle center featuring retail stores, office buildings, luxury apartments and restaurants that serves as a type of downtown center for the suburb. In late 2015, a Hyatt Place hotel will open here.
There’s even green space that serves as a performing arts center, home to concerts and other performances throughout the year.
“It is a spectacularly nice community,” said Gary Cooper, senior vice president and principal with the Cleveland office of Colliers International. “It does feel like more of a community. It mimics what a downtown like, say, Cleveland’s, has to offer.”
Crocker Park certainly feels like a downtown, much like one you’d find in Cleveland, Milwaukee, Indianapolis or Minneapolis. Is it “fake?” Maybe. But it is a good example of how a suburb can give itself a bit of that urban feel that so many people are seeking today.
“I think Crocker Park is a good example of how a suburb can give itself that center that people want today,” Cooper said. “Crocker Park has just about anything you’d find in a more traditional downtown. Of course, it’s not as big as downtown Cleveland. But it is an example of something the suburbs can do.”