Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Study shows that walkability adds value to homes

A recent study commissioned by CEOs for Cities indicates that housing prices in areas with amenities within walking distance carry a premium to houses in communities without access to such amenities. Using WalkScore and pricing data for 15 major metropolitan markets, the researchers found a direct correlation between a higher WalkScore rating (indicating more amenities within walking distance) and higher home prices, keeping such things as number of bedrooms, bathrooms, etc. constant.

While this comes as no surprise to those of us who have long advocated walkable communities, the press that should be associated with this over the coming days/weeks should serve as additional ammunition to our cause. Not only does a greater degree of walkability aid in the health of residents, it also adds to their pocketbooks. Simply put, more and more people are demanding a lifestyle in which they do not have to be completely tied to their cars. Although many "walkable" areas still require cars for some means of transportation, walkable communities present an option to residents to skip the car for short trips to places in or around the neighborhood. Demand for this lifestyle continues to grow.

It should also be noted that housing values for those areas closer to the city core should return to a "normalized" level much faster than exurban, non-walkable communities. Those areas built upon cheap gas and cheap credit will take much, much longer to return and to become fully developed, as this trend continues. As a result, expect the correlation between walkability and values to continue.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The High Line

The much-anticipated High Line public park opened a few days ago in New York.  I look forward to having the chance to stroll along this elevated park the next time I'm in NYC.  Nicolai Duroussoff gives a very good architectural review in the NY Times.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A (Radical) Way to Fix Suburban Sprawl

Time Magazine reports on the "radical" plan of Tysons Corner, Virginia to improve its mass sprawl by allowing the private sector to essentially redevelop the place itself.  The carrot to entice the private sector is significantly increased density in certain areas, especially surrounding a planned new Metro line extension which will link Tysons Corner with DC and Dulles.  This method allows the market to increase density and reduce sprawl without significant government oversight or intervention.  Landowners may apply to increase the density of their properties, thereby increasing the property values and, ultimately, redeveloping those properties into their highest and best use according to the new density standards.

While this type of "redevelopment" will take time, it allows the market to best determine when various parcels are redeveloped and the look and use of each such parcel.  The result, ideally, is a mosaic of properties, all oriented to pedestrian use and mass-transit, yet without the cookie-cutter feel of many planned transit-oriented developments.  Although the author points to potential problems down the road created by the significant increase in residents, the private sector, combined with the local goverment, should be able to at least ease some of those problems with the creation of new schools, incentives for land donations for parks, etc.  If this "experiment" is only partially successful, Tysons Corner will be a much better place than it is today.