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Walkable areas lead to higher rents for developers

Pedestrian-friendly commercial spaces can earn 74% more per square foot

July 01, 2014 |
Photo: Momos via Wikimedia Commons

New research from a George Washington University research group and LOCUS, a coalition of real estate investors that's part of Smart Growth America,says that offices in “Walkable Urban Places (WalkUPs)” bring developers 74% more rent per square foot.

The study, “Foot Traffic Ahead: Ranking Walkable Urbanism in America’s Largest Metros,” also found that areas that rank high for walkable development average 38% higher GDP than lower-ranking communities.

The researchers say that the increase in demand for pedestrian-friendly office buildings is part of a societal shift. “The last time we saw a structural change like this was back in the ’40s and ’50s,” said Christopher Leinberger, one of the authors of the report. “It’s going to take 20 to 30 years to catch up with pent-up demand.”

The study ranks the top 30 U.S. metro areas for their levels of walkable urbanism as well as projecting future rankings. It found 558 “WalkUPS” in those areas, defining them as regionally significant major employment centers. In the top 30 metros, WalkUPS take up just 1% percent of the available acreage, but account for as much as 50% of the office, hotel, apartment, and retail square footage.

Walkable urban developments are not as easy to create as the “formula product” that characterizes drivable suburban development, the study’s authors say. That’s due in part to NIMBYism and more complex permitting and review processes required in urban locations.


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