To get the economy humming again, America’s metro regions need to build more walkable places, according to a new report from a coalition of real estate developers.
The report from LOCUS [PDF], a group of developers and real estate investors who specialize in building walkable projects, examines which regions are seeing the fastest growth in walkable urban places, which the group calls “WalkUPs.” These places can be in cities or suburbs – political boundaries make little difference when it comes to walkability.
WalkUPs account for just 1 percent of total land area in the 30 metros LOCUS examined, but they have captured 48 percent of new rental housing, retail, and hotel development since 2009, according to the study. Unlocking the potential of these areas is the key to getting the real estate market and, in turn, the American economy, back on track, LOCUS says. The group believes that in the next few decades WalkUPs could capture as much as 80 percent of new development.
By measuring the share of development that goes toward walkable places, as well as the price premium that type of development commands, LOCUS rated the potential for walkable growth in each region (right).
“What we’re seeing here is a trend that is a structural trend,” said Chris Leinberger, president of LOCUS and co-author of the study. “The last structural trend was in the 1940s when we left the central cities.”
But there are many obstacles to walkable development: zoning laws and car-oriented transportation infrastructure, to name a few major ones. And some places are doing a better job of capturing that growth.
“We think this is going to take at least 10 to 20 years to catch up with the trend,” said Leinberger.
Here’s what LOCUS learned from its examination of 558 WalkUPs in 30 metro areas.