High-density urban development has established itself over the past few years as a strong trend 
within the construction industry.  Higher levels of migration to denser areas have garnered 
increasing demand for infill development, tear-downs, walkable neighborhoods, and access to 
public transportation, according to the American Institute of Architects’ Home Design Trends 
Survey from the third quarter of 2017.  As we’ve reported in the past, there has been a steady, 
upward movement toward urban development, but that story could be changing very soon.  These 
community design trends are leveling off, thanks to changing demographics within society.
High-density development has shown many advantages, most notably the impact on the cost-effectiveness of maintaining infrastructure such as public roads, services, and utilities in areas that are closer together.  This extends farther to public services, like police and fire departments’ abilities to service areas that are smaller and less spread out.  
Infill development and high-density living have their drawbacks, too.  Concentrated living areas that don’t champion walkability see an increase in traffic congestion and parking hassles.  Infill development itself can cause problems for urban dwellers, as repurposed buildings can often push out families and businesses that have resided in city-centers for generations.
This growth of market saturation in urban areas, however, has begun to plateau, and we have millennials to thank for that.  “Intense development pressure on urban neighborhoods seems to be tapering as more development swings back to suburban and exurban locations,” said Kermit Baker, American Institute of Architects chief economist.
Infill development and tear-downs are still ignited within community design trends, showing the desire of urban dwellers for redevelopment and increased property values.  The changing housing market, however, is going to affect these trends in the upcoming years as millennials are showing an inclination toward the suburban housing market.  Infill sites, such as office spaces, are seeing a change that mirrors the desires of their millennial workers.  Large-scale urban offices are morphing into suburban office sanctuaries, fully outfitted with hoteling options, open floor plans, and minimized overhead costs.
The National Association of Realtors® notes, in their Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Report, that young people aged 36 years and younger are the largest share of homebuyers at the moment.  Furthermore, they are inclined towards purchasing single-family, detached homes in suburban areas.  It’s interesting to note, however, that the cost of commuting ranked high on homebuyers’ lists of important features of a new home.  
What does this mean for the industry?  As we’ve reported before, millennials are driving the construction and real estate industries right now, and they desire communities that are walkable, integrated, and have diverse amenities.  Outdoor recreation is a high priority, which helps to explain the shifting attitude from gritty urban life to a greener existence in the suburbs.  High-density development is likely going to continue to plateau, or possibly decline.  Prepare yourself, your staff, and your company for the shift from urban infill development towards suburban construction and embrace the change.

Marcus Dodson
editor & publisher
Changing Times
The Decline of High-Density Urban Development