The Suburbs Are Coming to a City Near You (The New York Times)
SAN FRANCISCO — The roof deck of this new apartment complex is over half of an acre, and currently a concrete construction zone. But soon it will have a grass lawn, benches, hammocks and 20 planter boxes that residents can use to grow vegetables.
It’s the size of a larger-than-average backyard in a subdivision of a nice suburb with a name like Pleasanton or Pleasantville that’s a 30- or 45-minute drive from the city.
But this airborne backyard is at the Landing, a building in Dogpatch, a still-industrial part of San Francisco near the waterfront and known for its warehouses and dive bars. It’s pretty far from anyone’s vision of classic tree-lined cul-de-sac suburbia.
“The suburban life in the city is what we’re going for,” Roman Speron, a member of the building’s development team, told me on a recent tour of this oasis in progress. The 263-apartment development has been arranged with multiple elevator banks and outdoor space in the middle to create small clusters of residences. Marketing materials describe the setup as a “suburban village within the city of San Francisco.”
Your own slice of suburbia within city limits is a concept that developers and retailers across the country have been pitching a lot recently, subtly or not. The pendulum swings of socio-economic and demographic changes over the past two decades in some thriving cities are partly behind this shift.
A generation or two ago, the well-to-do tended to flee to the suburbs when they married or had kids. Today, they’re the ones who often opt to stay put, even with large families. And some baby boomers who left to raise kids have returned. So developers are offering them big-box stores, food courts, easy parking and house-like apartments, all without having to leave the city.