Growing Urban Development Trend: Walkability

Growing Urban Development Trend: Walkability

Residential News » North America Residential News Edition | By Michael Gerrity | June 18, 2014 9:00 AM ET

Based on a new report by the Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis at George Washington University School of Business in conjunction with LOCUS: Responsible Real Estate Developers and Investors, walkable real estate development projects and places are on the rise nationwide.
The report titled: Foot Traffic Ahead: Ranking Walkable Urbanism in America's Largest Metros, ranks the country's top 30 metropolitan areas based on the amount of commercial development in Walkable Urban Places (WalkUPs). The study finds higher education levels and one-third higher GDP per capita in high-ranking cities. Additionally, a series of forward-looking metrics examine the future development patterns in these metro areas to predict how walkable or how sprawling their future development is likely to be.
"In a sweeping survey of our nation's top 30 metro areas, Foot Traffic Ahead reveals just how important Walkable Urban Places are," said Chris Leinberger, president of LOCUS and author of the report. "As economic engines, as talent attractors, and as highly productive real estate, these WalkUPs are a crucial component in building and sustaining a thriving urban economy. Cities with more WalkUPs are positioned for success, now and in the future."
"This is an important study underlining the economic power of walkable places, and identifying which metro areas are adding them fastest," said Geoff Anderson, president and CEO of Smart Growth America. "Cities that want to thrive in our new economic and demographic realities will need to find ways to create and support more of these dynamic, productive walkable districts that are in high demand."
While metro areas like Washington, DC, New York City, Boston, the San Francisco Bay Area and Chicago ranked among the top current areas for walkable urbanism, the report found that other cities including Miami, Atlanta and Detroit are well positioned for future growth of walkability given current efforts in those the communities.
"Creating new Walkable Urban Places is a goal that elected officials and developers alike can get behind," said Emerick Corsi, President, Forest City Real Estate Services and Development. "Based on the trends in Foot Traffic Ahead, there is the potential for market demand for tens of millions more square feet of walkable urban development - and hundreds of new WalkUPs - in America's cities. Meeting that demand is an opportunity to create huge value for these communities."

Key finding in the report included:

  • There are 558 WalkUPs, or regionally significant, walkable urban places, in the 30 largest metropolitan areas in the United States.
  • The 30 metros are ranked according to their current walk-able urbanism and categorized into four levels:
  • LEVEL 1: High Walkable Urbanism - Metros that augur the end of sprawl, as their current development is concentrated in creating and expanding WalkUPs rather than drivable suburban areas.
  • LEVEL 2: Moderate Walkable Urbanism - Metros that are developing both drivable suburban and walkable urban places, but are trending more toward a walkable urban future.
  • LEVEL 3: Tentative Walkable Urbanism - Metros that are trending toward WalkUP development in their central cities--along with a few examples in suburbs--despite being dominated by drivable suburban patterns.
  • LEVEL 4: Low Walkable Urbanism - Metros that continue to build in the drivable suburban pattern. Any brights spots of walkable urbanism tend to be located in revitalizing center cities.
  • Future-oriented metrics show that some metropolitan areas, such as Miami, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Denver, are making some surprising and unexpected shifts toward walkable urban development.
  • The most walkable urban metro areas have substantially higher GDPs per capita and percentages of college graduates over 25 years of age in the population. These relation-ships are correlations. Determining the causal relationships will require further research.
  • Walkable urban office space in the 30 largest metros commands a 74 percent rent-per-square-foot premium over rents in drivable suburban areas. And, these price premiums continue to grow.
  • Walkable urban development is not limited to the revitalzation of center cities; it is also the urbanization of suburbs.

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