Increased Desirability in First-Ring Neighborhoods: Best-of-class examples CocoWalk Shopping Center, Darien Commons, and Bethesda Row.

Millennials and Gen Z continue to be attracted to first-ring neighborhoods. A recent study by Cowen and Company found that both groups living in the suburbs recently increased by over 45%. According to, many retail centers in suburban markets (or first-ring neighborhoods) were repositioned as urban lifestyle centers before the pandemic. From a night out to weekend shopping, more generations prefer a walkable city feel while enjoying a wide variety of options and necessities minutes from home. Consequently, mixed-use developments in these markets are becoming more pedestrian-friendly, ecologically sound destinations with creative placemaking.

Foot traffic has increased by 10% over pre-pandemic levels at Pike & Rose and Wildwood Shopping Center this year. Federal Realty’s Mike Ennes, Senior Vice President of Mixed-Use Initiatives and Corporate Communications, reports that customers are also spending 6% more time during visits, pushing tenant sales higher than in 2019.

Therefore, upscale restaurants, coffee shops, boutiques, and more that previously served downtown markets are now focusing on suburban space. “I think they’re aware or realizing that their customers are likely to be spending more time closer to where they live,” says Federal Realty’s Stuart Biel, Senior Vice President, Regional Leasing.

“I think they’re aware or realizing that their customers are likely to be spending more time closer to where they live.”

— Stuart Biel, Senior Vice President, Regional Leasing

Mixed-Use Developments with Community Connection

The successful mixed-use development Bethesda Row is minutes from the DC Metro. The open-air, live-play-work property provides illuminating lighting, a pedestrian-friendly atmosphere, and the sense of being in a city. A multitude of national and local, and new and beloved brands in fitness, dining, and digital can be found alongside a blend of chef-inspired local and iconic dining favorites.

Perhaps it’s the added ease of grabbing groceries at Giant and chocolate churros at Spanish Diner. Or, it’s scheduling a cardio sesh at the multiple-floor luxury fitness club Equinox before a movie at Landmark Cinema, then picking up items at Bluemercury and Apple in one shopping trip. In all instances, Bethesda Row creates an irresistible ambiance.

Several new leases will soon further the efficacy of the center’s approach, including Levain Bakery, jeweler Gorjana that expanded from online wholesale to brick and mortar, and Foxtrot Market, depicted as the “convenience store of the future” and new to the DC metro market.

Darien Commons, off I-95 and steps from the Metro-North rail line, will provide leading brands, local favorites, and newcomers. Located on Connecticut’s Gold Coast and ten miles from affluent Greenwich, Darien is mighty for a luxurious mixed-use property. Fairfield County has experienced the quickest growth of any county population in Connecticut, gaining over 40,500 residents in the past decade. 

Both retailers, residents, and visitors can have their average drugstore trip to Walgreens transformed into a day of experiencing NYC-originated mani and pedi spot Glosslab, lunch at an indie cafe with a fresh take deemed Gregory’s Coffee, a wild-caught seafood dinner with cocktails at Seamore’s, and a nightcap at Italian eatery Molto.

The fully leased CocoWalk Shopping Center is a driving force in Coconut Grove’s rejuvenation. Whether it’s shopping for Uruguayan foods at Narbona Natural Foods & Farm Market, catching a flick at Cinépolis, sipping gin at Botánico, enjoying fresh steak and seafood with a Brazilian vibe at The Key Club, or taking a walk around the tropically inspired courtyard, CocoWalk is rooted in South Floridian genes while playing up the electricity of Miami.

Multi-Use Modernity

Modern mixed-use developments aspire to the distinctive upscale urban lifestyle that many crave. In addition to being places to shop, eat, work, and live, these centers also blend modern creative placemaking design with the character of the community. As more generations move into first-ring neighborhoods, the appeal of convenience and upscale amenities will become even more popular. Being able to shop at a popular drugstore before eating at a trendy restaurant or grocery shopping after coffee at a boutique cafe, all in one place, will continue to be a great draw of these shopping centers.

Explore more Federal Realty mixed-use developments that combine retail, dining, lifestyle, office, and multifamily properties in key locations across the country here.