WASHINGTON, Dec. 4 /PRNewswire/ -- Walkable urbanism is spreading
beyond the boundaries of inner cities and into the suburbs as Gen Xers and
empty nesters search for communities offering a walkable lifestyle,
according to the book The Option of Urbanism: Investing in a New American
Dream released today.
Top 10 Metro Areas For Best Walkable Communities
1. Washington, DC
2. Boston, MA
3. San Francisco, CA
4. Denver, CO
5. Portland, OR
6. Seattle, WA
7. Chicago, IL
8. Miami, FL
9. Pittsburgh, PA
10. New York, NY
Visit www.optionofurbanism.com for rankings for 11-30 top metro areas
for walkable urbanism
Also being released today by the Brookings Institution and visiting
fellow and author Christopher B. Leinberger is a first-of-its-kind field
survey which ranks the top ten metropolitan areas that offer the best
places to live for those who want their homes a short walk from work,
entertainment, schools, shops and restaurants.
Diverse walkable urban communities are popping up in and around major
metropolitan areas like D.C., Denver, and even car-dominated cities like
Los Angeles and Detroit.
This new trend is being driven by demand from Gen Xers, empty nesters,
never nesters and singles looking for neighborhoods where cars are not
absolutely essential-as opposed to what Leinberger refers to as "drivable
sub- urban" developments characteristic of the American landscape since the
"The 'Leave It To Beaver' drivable suburban vision of the American
Dream is being supplemented by the 'Seinfeld' vision of walkable urbanism,"
stated Leinberger. "As demographic trends and consumer preferences take
hold, the nearby suburbs of many major cities are changing to meet the pent
up demand for this new way of life. The outer suburbs are also beginning to
follow suit, through the development of so-called 'lifestyle centers.' The
American Dream, as laid out on the ground, is changing."
Leinberger, working with his colleague Dr. Stephen Roulac, has also
quantified, for the first time, the value of the built environment in the
economy. They cite that the built environment (real estate and
infrastructure, including government buildings) accounts for 35% of
wealth in the U.S. and is the largest asset class in the economy.
Adding more development to emerging and existing walkable urban
communities starts an upward spiral of investment returns, tax revenues and
quality of life -- what Leinberger refers to as "more is better." In
contrast, drivable sub-urban development has shown that as more is built,
quality of life is reduced, i.e., "more is less." The phenomenon is the
reason for the extreme resistance to new development in many parts of
metropolitan America, so-called NIMBYism, since it is a rational reaction
to the "more is less" syndrome.
"We face a conundrum in how to grow, how we invest the 35% of our
wealth that is tied up in the built environment, and provide a high quality
of life that is financially and environmentally sustainable. Walkable
urbanism is a crucial part of the answer," added Leinberger.
However, federal policies, local zoning codes, our current financing
system, and today's real estate development industry's skill-sets have made
drivable sub-urban development the de facto domestic policy of the country.
This has resulted in geometric increases in land consumption compared to
population growth, a host of social ills, long commutes, and increasing
rates of obesity, asthma and accidental deaths and injuries from
over-reliance on car and truck transportation.
There are even foreign policy implications from the nation's dependence
upon an oil-based transportation system from unstable and/or hostile
countries, particularly as the probable peak in world-wide oil capacity may
be approaching. Finally, there is the intuitive, if not yet proven,
connection between this drivable sub-urban domestic policy and CO2 and
other green house gas emissions.
Walkable urban areas are also attracting the well-educated. More than
80% of recent residents in such unlikely places as downtown Detroit and
Philadelphia are college educated. According to Leinberger, the
metropolitan areas that do not offer walkable urban living options will
face economic development challenges. The "creative class," working in
knowledge-based sectors such as science and media, will settle elsewhere
and the enterprises dependent upon them will follow.
Growing demand for walkable urbanism has resulted in a large gap
between the current limited supply and much larger pent-up demand, boosting
per square foot premiums for walkable urban residential, office and retail
space from 40% to 200% of the comparable drivable sub-urban product in the
Recent research in selected metropolitan areas shows that 30% to 40% of
households want to live in walkable urban communities, but only 5% to 20%
of the housing supply is walkable urban. Because of the relatively small
amount of new supply that is added each year to the built environment, the
supply of walkable urban housing, office and retail will not catch up to
demand for a generation. This has lead to the growing concern about
"gentrification" in many metropolitan areas in the country, an
unintentional consequence of this new trend.
The Option of Urbanism shows how the American Dream, characterized by a
sub-urban lifestyle, is shifting, but outdated federal policies, local
zoning laws, financial institutions' formulas and lack of experience by
real estate developers still encourage low-density, car-dependent suburban
development. The book presents a compelling case for a new national
approach and for America's financial and real estate industries to respond
to demand for walkable urbanism across the country.
Christopher Leinberger is a visiting fellow at the Brookings
Institution, professor and director of the graduate Real Estate Program at
the University of Michigan and partner in Arcadia Land Company. He is a
graduate of Swarthmore College and Harvard Business School. He now lives in
the Dupont Circle area of Washington, D.C., with his wife.
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