Commercial Contracting: Differences Between Suburban and Urban Projects

01 April 2019

There have traditionally been many differences between suburban and urban commercial contracting. Many businesses have moved downtown in recent years, and many more are in the process of doing just that.

But the suburbs still boast a number of large companies and benefits the city can’t offer, but the big question of the day is whether people should invest in cities or in suburbs to build their offices. That question is not so easily answered.

There are some major differences between suburbs and cities, primarily those differences are:

  • The overall cost
  • Mobility
  • Diversity

Suburbs have generally been more affordable but haven’t offered great mobility or diversity. However, the rise of mixed-building development is perhaps set to change that. So, let’s take a look at the major differences between cities and suburbs, and see how mixed-buildings can help each.

The Overall Cost

Prices can vary greatly from market to market and area to area. However, it still holds true that the overall costs of living and working in the suburbs is much lower than in the cities.

Some say that the millennials are primarily responsible for that. Millennials generally prefer living and working in cities even though the costs are higher. Empty-nesters and older generations are also starting to see the benefits of city life, and people are continuing to massively move to larger cities.

With higher vacancy levels, tenants can easily negotiate lower prices, and the costs of contracting and developing projects are much lower. This can be especially appealing to contractors since they can build at a lower cost and attract and draw in more people with the development of new projects.


The number one reason why millennials prefer city life is its easy mobility. Fewer millennials drive cars today compared to the older generations, and they prefer having everything within walking distance. In urban environments, even if something isn’t within a walking distance, public transportation offers convenience and affordability.

However, ride-sharing and ride-hailing apps brought about many changes. With Lyft, Uber, and similar companies offering greater mobility, suburbs are finding it easier to attract a bigger talent pool. Employers and young talented workers are becoming more drawn to the suburban communities thanks to this mobility revolution.

Suburban communities have more opportunities to create walkable downtowns that are appealing to the younger workforce, and this accessibility and mobility, combined with affordable prices is set to attract more and more people. Two of Focus’ recent suburban projects have applied an urban model for walkability and accessibility, The Atworth at Mellody Farm in Vernon Hills and Kelmscott Park in Lake Forest. This new strategy has been effective in attracting younger families who prefer the suburban setting but value the benefits of an urban lifestyle.


Urban environments still boast much greater diversity than their suburban counterparts, which is especially appealing to younger workers.

Traditionally, suburban environments were seen as largely wealthy and white, but recent years have seen a dramatic change. Primarily, poverty has been on the rise in suburban environments, much more so than in the cities, and there’s a greater necessity for affordable housing.

New housing units and office spaces in the suburbs create an opportunity to fight this issue. Redesigning the suburbs, making them into walkable neighborhoods open to greater diversity is what’s amazingly appealing to the younger workforce.

Mixed-Use Development

Mixed-use development is the number one trend in cities and suburbs alike. These properties allow people to live, work, shop, and play in highly concentrated areas.

In cities, we often see single mixed-use properties, i.e. a single building with commercial and residential spaces on different floors.

In the suburbs, there’s more of a horizontal mixed-use development, referring to individual single-use buildings with a range of purposes.

Mixed-use development has made commercial contracting in the suburbs greatly advantageous, opening the door for many succesSFul projects and attracting a wide variety of people.

Each area boasts a variety of advantages for commercial contractors such as a Focus. Reach out to us today to find out how Focus is contributing to both suburban and urban development.

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