Home-buyers in the Washington DC region will now pay 71 percent more for a home in a walkable area than one in the drive-only suburbs.
This is among the wealth of new findings in a report released this week that examines 43 “walkUPs” – or walkable, urban places – in the region, and how they fit into building DC as the model of city of the future.
The author, Chris Leinberger, who is a professor at George Washington University School of Business, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, and a real-estate developer, has had his findings published by the New York Times and plans to further examine more U.S. cities in future research.
But he told DC real-estate professionals at an Urban Land Institute conference on Tuesday that walkable, urban development is the trend shaping the industry throughout the United States, and that cities without a diverse array of walkable city centers will be left behind in the future economy.
“I moved to DC because I wanted to see the future of walkable communities unfold right in front of me,” Leinberger said.
He went on to explain how DC is really the model for building activity centers, or development clusters, or walkups, because of the density that is already in place. When people – namely New Yorkers – call him out on his claim that DC is a more walkable place than New York, Leinberger responds that “10 percent of New York City lives like Seinfeld, but the other 90 percent lives like Tony Soprano.”
In co-called walkUPs, 90 percent of increased economic performance can be explained by walkability, job density, and workforce education. One of the challenges Leinberger touches upon is how to better align diversity and social equity with economic performance of desirable – but typically more expensive – walkUPs. One area that can provide a lot of the solution is transportation cost, which is typically much lower in walkable areas where people don’t need to take as many car trips.
The six types of walkups present a nice spectrum of choice for potential DC residents and visitors.
- Traditional downtown. DC actually has two – the actual downtown and the Golden Triangle around K Street. What is shocking is that retail only makes up about 1 percent of these areas, but even with such a seemingly low mix, the retail is clearly vital.
- Downtown adjacent. These are office-dominated areas – like Dupont Circle – but have much more of a mix of housing (24 percent) and retail (4 percent). Retail again seems so lively in Dupont that it’s amazing the percentage is so low.
- Urban commercial. These are places like U Street and Adams Morgan, where retail, at about 15 percent, is the reason for existence.
- Suburban town center. Bethesda was formerly a town center that got absorbed into the DC region. Ballston is another example. It was once not much more than a mall district that has now been urbanized. These areas are about 16 percent retail.
- Strip commercial development. White Flint and Tyson’s Corner are big movers converting to become major retail areas.
- Greenfields. New development that occurs out of nowhere, like National Harbor, is increasingly in demand.
Leinberger’s work begs much more research, but it’s very interesting to wonder where all the walkUPs will eventually be built in St. Louis, Detroit, Atlanta, and places all over the country.
As he reiterated, where this model was once the niche, “walkable urban is becoming the market.”