Urban Land Institute Publishes Book Outlining Benefits of Walkable Communities
Staff of the Urban Land Institute gathered information to further the development of a business case for creating high-density, mixed use (residential and business), walkable places.
The institute is a nonprofit research and education organization that provides leadership in the responsible use of land and in creating and sustaining thriving communities worldwide.
- In April 2003, staff convened a forum in the District of Columbia of 26 experts and practitioners from the real estate, finance and land development fields to define such places, clarify the issues involved in implementing a business model for their development and identify successful examples of such development.
- Staff from the Urban Land Institute wrote a book about successful mixed-use, walkable developments, based on a literature review and the forum's perspectives. The book, entitled "Creating Walkable Places: Compact, Mixed-Use Solutions," is available online for $84.95.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) provided a grant of $123,600 to support this project from December 2002 to June 2004.
Evidence of the connection between the built environment and people's health is growing. Regular physical activity decreases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer and depression, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
A study published in the American Journal of Public Health documented a clear association between the built environment and activity levels and people's weight and health, finding that residents living in the most "sprawling" county weighed an average of six pounds more than residents of the most compact county (Ewing et. al., 2003).
The researchers concluded that many more people would get exercise as part of their daily activities if their environment supported a more active way of life.
Since World War II, suburban developments without sidewalks, disconnected from commerce and far away from workplaces, have dominated the housing market. These developments do not offer significant opportunity for increasing routine daily activity. Changing these suburban development patterns has been slow, in part due to the lack of a well-defined business case, or models showing a return on investment, for creating high-density, mixed-use, walkable places.
Promoting healthy communities and lifestyles is an RWJF goal area. One of RWJF's strategies to meet this goal has been to find ways to increase physical activity through community design and redesign and to build a stronger knowledge base from which to promote active living. RWJF has four active living programs:
- Active Living Research Program stimulates and supports research to identify environmental factors and policies that influence physical activity (for more information see Grant Results). Findings are expected to inform environmental and policy changes that will promote active living among Americans.
- Active Living by Design Program incorporates activity-promoting goals and processes into ongoing community planning efforts and supports the development and testing of local community active living projects, with special efforts to reach low-income Americans.
- Active Living Leadership is working to increase the number of state and local elected and appointed leaders who understand and champion community design to promote active living.
- Active for Life®: Increasing Physical Activity Levels in Adults Age 50 and Older seeks to increase the number of American adults age 50 and older who engage in regular physical activity. (For more information see Grant Results.)
Staff from the Urban Land Institute gathered information to further the development of a business case for the creation of high-density, mixed use (residential and business), walkable places from mid-December 2002 through mid-June 2004 in this project that RWJF solicited.
Staff focused inquiry on pedestrian-oriented development, what the CDC calls "active community environments." These are places where people of all ages and abilities have access to an infrastructure supporting physical activity, including sidewalks, on-street bicycle facilities, multi-use paths and trails, parks and open space, and recreational facilities. Such environments can also be dense, mixed-use developments with connected grids of streets so that everything is accessible by walking or biking.
The Urban Land Institute is a Washington nonprofit research and education organization representing the land use and real estate development disciplines.
As reported to RWJF, project staff:
- Convened a forum of 26 experts and practitioners from the real estate, finance and land development fields to define a mixed-use, walkable environment; clarify the issues involved in developing a business model for such an environment; and identify successful examples of such development. The meeting took place in April 2003 in Washington. For a list of the participants, see Appendix 1.
- Wrote a book, Creating Walkable Places: Compact, Mixed-Use Solutions, broadly addressing the necessary components of a marketable and financially successful mixed-use, walkable development project. Based on a literature review and the forum's perspectives, the book covers the following topics:
- The current built environment, how it has changed and continues to change, the need and demand for more walkable places, the benefits of walking for the public and the business community, and what makes a place walkable.
- Practical design considerations and features of pedestrian-oriented places.
- The market for pedestrian-oriented development. For more on this subject see Findings.
- The public sector's involvement in pedestrian-oriented development. For more on this subject see Findings.
- Nine case studies of walkable places from many parts of the nation and different contexts. The case studies demonstrate the challenges and range of solutions needed to build walkable places. For a list of the case studies see Appendix 2.
- For more information about the book, see Communications.
Project staff at the Urban Land Institute reports in Creating Walkable Places: Compact, Mixed-Use Solutions (2005) the following key points:
- The Market for Pedestrian-Oriented Development:
- People want to walk more and want their neighborhoods to provide more opportunities to do so. Surveys sponsored by the Surface Transportation Policy Project (a national nonprofit coalition in Washington that works to ensure safer communities and smarter transportation choices) in 2003 found that 55 percent of respondents would like to walk more; 63 percent would like to run errands on foot and walk to stores; and 79 percent would like sidewalks and other places to walk and exercise.
- Consumer attitudes about desirable neighborhoods are shifting. Recreational amenities such as golf courses are starting to be seen as less desirable than amenities such as trails and sidewalks. In a homebuyers' survey, DMB (a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based commercial developer of master-planned communities) found a marked difference between what consumers wanted in the early 1990s (golf courses and other recreational amenities) and in 2003 (walkable communities: communities characterized by pedestrian access, a sense of connection and a sense of community and diversity. There was also strong demand for walkable retail districts).
- People are willing to pay more to live in walkable communities. The Urban Land Institute compared four new urban communities (those built within existing urban settings) with their surrounding competitors and found that people spent an average of $20,189 more to live in pedestrian-friendly new urban communities. (Valuing the New Urbanism, 1999). More recent studies show similar results.
- Real estate analysts believe that walkable places offer the best investment potential. According to the 1999 PricewaterhouseCoopers "Emerging Trends in Real Estate" survey, commercial and residential real estate investments are believed to be stronger in urban environments, especially cities with an active street presence 24 hours a day.
- Obtaining Financing for Pedestrian-Oriented Development:
- It is no longer more challenging to obtain financing for the development of walkable places than for auto-oriented, single-use projects. Many investors favor development projects that encourage pedestrian activity, according to the Urban Land Institute.
- While mixed-use projects tend to be more expensive than conventional, single-use projects, lenders do not consider the higher cost to be a major obstacle to securing funding. Lenders believe these projects generally cost about 10 percent more to develop but that this cost differential is not a factor in a development's ability to secure financing (Gyourko and Rybczynski, Housing Policy Debate, 2000).
- Mixed-use projects offer advantages to developers in terms of their flexibility and broader market. Mixed-use developments can be more responsive to changes in the market because when the market for one use weakens, another can more easily fill the space than if the project is developed for a single use. The diversity of space that must be sold or leased makes a larger project possible. Also, some flexibility can be built in (e.g., buildings can be converted to and from residential and commercial uses).
- Entitlement (securing legal rights to develop land):
- New evidence suggests that the entitlement process is not always an obstacle to alternative development. One study found that investors did not consider new urbanist projects to be more difficult to entitle; the study found that many local jurisdictions prefer denser, more walkable alternatives to conventional suburban development (Gyourko and Rybczynski, Housing Policy Debate, 2000).
- At the federal level, programs are encouraging pedestrian-oriented development. The Location Efficient Mortgage program, sponsored in part by Fannie Mae (a Washington-based Congressionally-chartered private company created to assure the availability of mortgages to Americans), seeks to foster pedestrian travel by increasing loan amounts to people who buy homes within one-half mile of transit centers or pedestrian-oriented neighborhood centers. This program can be useful for developers interested in developing and marketing pedestrian-oriented places with a residential component.
- The Role Played by the Public Sector:
- The public sector is a crucial ally for a project's success. Mechanisms such as public/private partnerships, land write-downs, municipal bonds and public improvements at no cost to the developer have played key roles in the realization of many projects to date.
- Public/private partnerships have proven useful to developers facing political, legal and financial hurdles, providing some assurance in what is often a new and untried market. Help in overcoming community opposition, facilitating land assembly and financial support have been key. Often, pedestrian-friendly projects that involve a public partner can win faster approvals and financing, and gain greater market acceptance. Public/private partnerships allow for the needs of both the public and private sectors to be tailored to the project's requirements, and may inspire each to work hard for the project's timely completion.
Project staff wrote a book entitled Creating Walkable Places: Compact, Mixed-Use Solutions, which will be published in fall 2005 by the Urban Land Institute. It will be featured on the Institute's Web site and available online. The Urban Land Institute plans to promote the book to developers, builders, architects, planners and other consultants, academics and students in real estate, architecture and planning programs through direct mail, targeted e-mails and sales at conferences, including the institute's annual meetings. The institute also will promote the book to libraries and will make it available through Amazon.com, other online booksellers and bookstores.
A magazine article based on project research, "The Pedestrian Realm," was published in June 2005 in Urban Land, the Institute's monthly magazine. See Bibliography for details.
- Employ the services of a professional facilitator to help organize and run large, in-depth meetings. Staff members felt that they could have elicited more information from attendees at the project's forum of experts had the gathering been structured and facilitated by professionals. (Project Director)
GRANT DETAILS & CONTACT INFORMATION
Making the Business Case for Walkable Community Development
Urban Land Institute (Washington, DC)
Dates: December 2002 to June 2004
Participants of the Urban Land Institute's Forum of Experts (April 2003)
President, Urban Properties
West Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
Senior Vice President, Bank of America
Partner, Colorado Architecture Partnership
Colorado Springs, Colo.
Director, National Trust for Historic Preservation
Maybelle Taylor Bennett
Director, Howard University Community Association
Vice President, McCaffery Interests
Vice President, EDAW
Partner, Traditional Neighborhood Development Partners
President, East West Partners
President and CEO, Pedestrians Educating Drivers on Safety
Principal, Sasaki Associates
White Plains, N.Y.
Principal, Cooper Carry
Managing Director, Trammell Crow Company
Visiting Scientist, Harvard School of Public Health
Anne Vernez Moudon
Professor, University of Washington
City Planning Director
Torti Gallas & Partners
Silver Spring, Md.
CDC Fellow, Centers for Disease Control & Prevention
Executive Director, Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission
Design Principal, HTNB Corp.
Design Principal, Looney Ricks Kiss Architects
President, Henry Turley Company
National Center for Bicycling & Walking
Sean Wilson Sr.
Group Vice President, The HOK Planning Group
The following case studies are included in Creating Walkable Places: Compact, Mixed-Use Solutions (Urban Land Institute, Forthcoming, fall 2005).
- City Heights Urban Village
San Diego, Calif.
- Paseo Colorado
- The Market Common, Clarendon
Arlington County, Va.
- The Grove
Los Angeles, Calif.
- Centennial Lakes
- Birkdale Village
- Baxter Village
Fort Mill, S.C.
- WaterColor and Seaside
Seagrove Beach, Fla.
(Current as of date of this report; as provided by grantee organization; not verified by RWJF; items not available from RWJF.)
Schmitz A and Scully J. Creating Walkable Places. Washington: Urban Land Institute, 2006.
Schmitz A and Scully J. "The Pedestrian Realm." Urban Land, 98103, June 2005.
World Wide Web Sites
www.uli.org. Web site of the Urban Land Institute provides information on the project. Washington: Urban Land Institute.
Report prepared by: James Wood
Reviewed by: Lori De Milto
Reviewed by: Molly McKaughan
Program Officer: M. Katherine Kraft