Just Read: Walkable Urban Places – Boston poised to surpass Washington, DC?

This  new report, continuing on 2012’s “The WalkUP Wake-Up Call” (see: Now Reading: Walking and walkable urban places will drive an economic as well as a health renaissance | Ted Eytan, MD), goes beyond celebration of Washington, DC as the national model for walkable urban places (WalkUPs – get it?), to look at impact of WalkUPs and future trends for 30 metropolitan areas who may compete with our national model in the future. And competition is good, the best innovations are the ones where the innovator is overtaken, which means something is catching on 🙂 .

The report is written by Chris Leinberger (@ChrisLeinberger) and Patrick Lynch, a team that’s been regularly connecting the art and science of real estate development to economic health, which drives and supports physical health. They are great allies to the health system – thank you!

Changing our terminology

A far more useful understanding of metropolitan1 America is “walkable urban” and “drivable sub-urban” development . Because both types of development can occur in a metro’s central city and in its suburbs, the old dichotomy is now obsolete.

Walkable urban development is characterized by much higher density and a mix of diverse real estate types, connected to surrounding areas via multiple transportation options, such as bus and rail, bike routes, and motor vehicles . For those living or visiting a walkable urban place, everyday destinations, such as home, work, school, stores, and restaurants, are within walking distance.

Better places to be, growing in importance

WalkUPs appear to be the most appealing places to live (to me anyway), and they are better for communities anyway. WalkUP development is correlated with higher education and higher metropolitan GDP, as well as higher real estate values (note: correlation doesn’t mean causation, as is stated in the report).

And… Washington, DC continues to be the national model, because:

  • It has the highest percentage of office and retail space in WalkUPs (43 percent)
  • It has a good split between the central city and suburbs (51 and 49 percent) – not just a downtown phenomenon

New York is “only” number 2 because its WalkUP inventory is mostly in Manhattan (89 percent worth), covering just 0.3 % of the land area of the city. In the future, it’s predicted that New York is going to be number 3, behind DC still, because…

Boston, the future

..mostly because it’s believed that Washington, DC has reached a plateau:

In general, metro Washington, DC, developers have mastered developing walkable urban real estate . This method is much more complex and risky than the simple, well-known drivable sub-urban formulas that many real estate developers use to zone, plan, build, construct, finance, and market their projects.

So hooray Boston, as well as some other rising stars, like Miami, Atlanta, Detroit, and Denver, and some surprises like Los Angeles, Phoenix, and maybe Houston. Bummer Orlando, and San Diego near the bottom of the list? What happened?

Entertainment gets into WalkUPs

I love how our cities are not only changing, the stories we are telling about them are too.

The 2013 Oscar-nominated movie, Her, shows a Los Angeles in the near future, where the main characters live in high-density towers, walking to work and restaurants . None of the actors are seen in a car—they even take the subway directly to the beach.

(what’s a car?)

Ted Eytan, MD