NEW YORK (MainStreet) — If you're the type of house-hunter who hates car-centric suburbs but loves pedestrian-friendly cities, here's a look at five metro areas that offer America's best "walkable urbanism."
"Right now the market wants and is willing to pay a huge premium for 'walkable urban places,'" says George Washington University's Christopher Leinberger, who co-wrote a study with fellow GWU professor Patrick Lynch that ranks cities for "urban walkability."
The researchers define "walkable urban places" (or "WalkUPs" for short) as city or suburban neighborhoods that are easy to walk around in and offer at least 1.4 million square feet of office space or 340,000 square feet of retail. WalkUPs are the opposite of what Leinberger and Lynch call "drivable suburban" neighborhoods — low-density suburbs where you have to get in your car to get pretty much anywhere.
Leinberger says young professionals have been boosting WalkUPs' development in recent years by choosing to live in pedestrian-friendly urban areas rather than the car-focused suburbs that many grew up in. Some well-heeled baby boomers are adding to the trend by downsizing from suburban homes and into WalkUPs instead, he says.
The GWU researchers have found that WalkUPs offer big dividends to cities that embrace such development.
For instance, Leinberger says, WalkUPs typically have 40% to 100% higher property values per square foot than less-dense developments.
Metro areas with the most WalkUPs also have below-average obesity rates, a higher percentage of college-educated workers and about 36% more per-capita gross domestic product than that of low-walkability cities.