Walkable real estate development projects and places are on the rise nationwide, but certain metro regions are progressing faster than others, according to a new report.
“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). While metro areas like Washington, D.C., New York, 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. The study is a project of 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, a program of Smart Growth America.
“These places are witnessing the end of sprawl,” says Christopher Leinberger, president of LOCUS and one of the study’s authors. “It represents a pretty significant change in how we invest and build the country.”
The study, which noted higher education levels and one-third higher GDP per capita in high-ranking cities, underlines the economic power of walkable places and identifies which metro areas are adding them fastest. These spaces are home to 46% of the U.S. population and account for 58% of the country’s total GDP, Leinberger notes.
“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,” he says. “Cities with more WalkUPs are positioned for success, now and in the future.”
The trend toward walkable and transit-oriented living is here to stay, the study’s authors conclude: “This is not just a passing fad,” Leinberger says. “It’s going to take 20 to 30 years for cities to catch up with the demand for walkable spaces.”
The newly released “Foot Traffic Ahead” report finds that areas found to have high levels of walkability are models for the future development patterns of many of the largest 30 U.S. metropolitan areas. The study breaks down the top 30 metros into 4 levels: high, moderate, tentative, and low walkable urbanism.
Other key findings of the study include:
—There are 558 WalkUPs, or regionally significant walkable urban places, in the 30 largest metro areas in the U.S.
—Walkable urban office space in the 30 largest metros commands a 74% rent-per-square-foot premium over rents in drivable suburban areas. These price premiums continue to grow.
—Walkable urban development is not limited to the revitalization of center cities; it also is the urbanization of the suburbs.