“Walkability” and Wealth Downtown

 

 

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Enhancing the walkability of Main Street communities improves safety for motorists and pedestrians, builds foot traffic for businesses, encourages interaction in public spaces, and adds vibrancy to the street.

Credit: Linda S. Glisson

Can the "walkability" of your Main Street district translate into dollars and cents?  We know that enhancing the pedestrian orientation of Main Street communities does more than keep your design committee volunteers occupied; it creates a cohesive atmosphere, improves safety for motorists and pedestrians, builds foot traffic for businesses, encourages interaction in public spaces, and adds vibrancy to the street. And in a new report by Joseph Cortright for CEOs for Cities, walkability is also linked to higher property values.

The report, "Walking the Walk: How Walkability Raises Housing Values in U.S. Cities," examined real estate data in 15 major markets and determined that in 13 of those markets, high levels of walkability were connected to higher home values. Cortright used Walk Score, which measures the proximity of amenities such as restaurants, parks, coffee shops, libraries, and more to specific addresses, to calculate "Walk Scores" for the 15 markets. A Walk Score of 100 is the most walkable while 0 implies being completely auto dependent. Scores of 70 and above indicate high levels of walkability. Cortright found a one-point increase in a Walk Score correlated to an increase in home values from $700 to $3,000, depending on the density of the city being researched.

The Walk Score for the Ashley Park neighborhood in Charlotte, N.C., for example, is 54 and the median home price is $280,000. A similar home in another Charlotte community, Wilmore, which has a higher score of 71 was found to have a median home price of $314,000.

 "These findings are significant for policy makers," says Carol Coletta, president and CEO of CEOs for Cities.  "They tell us that if urban leaders are intentional about developing and redeveloping their cities to make them more walkable, it will not only enhance the local tax base but will also contribute to individual wealth by increasing the value of what is, for most people, their biggest asset."

Luckily for Main Streets, the urban design of traditional commercial districts is inherently walkable. Streetscaping projects that reconfigure roads, improve parking, introduce traffic-calming measures, and add pedestrian amenities leverage existing walkable assets. While the value of commercial building prices wasn't measured in this study, commercial areas thrive with increased walkability, and the many financial and health-related benefits make pedestrian-oriented initiatives well worth the investment.