One of the criticisms raised about the new White Flint Sector Plan is that the Plan is designed to help people who aren’t even there yet, at the expense of people who already live there. Leaving aside the question of whether that’s true, a new article is being circulated in e-mails about how New Urbanism walkable communities actually help those already nearby.
The report, by Joe Cortwright, CEO of Impreza, Inc., was commissioned by the organization CEOs for Cities. CEOs for Cities describes itself as “a national network of urban leaders dedicated to building and sustaining the next generation of great American cities.” www.ceosforcities.org. Impreza is a Portland, Oregon-based consulting firm that describes itself as “specializing in metropolitan economies and knowledge-based industries. We work with business and civic leaders to understand what it takes for organizations and places to be successful in the global knowledge economy.” www.imprezaconsulting.com
The report, “Walking the Walk: How Walkability Raises Housing Values in U.S. Cities”, analyzed data from 94,000 real estate transactions in 15 major markets. In 13 of the 15 markets, higher levels of walkability were directly linked to higher home values. The “levels of walkability” were measured by “Walkscore,” www.walkscore.com.
Walkscore calculates the distance to amenities such as schools, libraries, restaurants, parks, stores, and so on, and publishes a “Walk Score” from 0-100. Communities with a Walkscore of 70 or above are considered to be walkable, without a regular need for a car. CEOs for Cities reports that “The study found that in the typical metropolitan area, a one-point increase in Walk Score was associated with an increase in value ranging from $700 to $3,000 depending on the market. The gains were larger in denser, urban areas like Chicago and San Francisco and smaller in less dense markets like Tucson and Fresno.”
The “metropolitan area” listed first on the walkable list was Arlington, Virginia. Friends of White Flint consciously models its plans for White Flint on the successful transformation of Arlington from car-centric suburb to a transit-oriented, walkable community. In the first presentation of Friends of White Flint’s Speakers’ Series in May, Chris Zimmerman, of the Arlington County Board, pointed out that Arlington has increased its population substantially in the last twenty years, but traffic congestion has actually gone down.
So we’ll have to revise our estimates of the value gain expected from the transformation of White Flint into a walkable community. We have been using the Montgomery County Planning Board’s estimate of $2.1 billion in additional property and income tax revenues, but that only counted new construction and new residents. See our discussion of the economics of the White Flint Sector Plan here.
What the Cortwright study shows is that there will also be some increase in property values in the existing housing values in the area. The amount of the increase will depend on how walkable the community actually becomes, but for each point in White Flint’s new “Walk Score”, existing property values can also be expected to rise between $700 to $3,000.
So the new White Flint should be good for existing residents, as well as newcomers. The benefits should be in reduced traffic, greater amenities and opportunities, and in actual dollar value of homes and properties.
You can find the Cortwright study at: