Young Americans want to live in urban settings, and suburbs are trying to create urban atmospheres to attract them.
“Walkability’’ is a hot buzzword in real estate today, edging closer to “location, location, location’’ as one of three most important factors in real estate.
In fact, “walkability’’ has become so popular, it has transcended its former status as a selling point for urban living. Suburbs are actively working to improve the walkability of their communities, which had previously been appreciated for its sprawl.
There are numerous organizations dedicated to the promotion of creating walking communities. But one business that also promotes the value of walkability is the real estate business, which identifies the increase in value of a home in a walkable neighborhood.
“A one point increase in walk score was associated with an increase in value ranging from $700 to $3,000 depending on the market,’’ according to a report commissioned by CEOS for Cities.
A private company, Walk Score, can provide a “Walk Score’’ for any city, town or community in the United States, and bases its scores on a mathematical algorithm that gives points based on the distance to the closest amenity in each of several categories, including businesses, parks, theaters, schools and libraries. No “Walk Score’’ points are given for any amenity more than a mile away from a community.
According to Joe Molinaro, managing director of community and public affairs at the National Association of Realtors, “there is a strong preference for being in a neighborhood where people can walk to shops, restaurants and parks.” In a 2011 Consumer Preference Survey done by the NAR, “we asked people for tradeoffs – comparing different things they might have to give up – and more and more are willing to make a sacrifice to be in a walkable neighborhood.”
After more than 50 years of post-World War ii creation of suburban communities, there are numerous reports about the return to urban lifestyles, which includes walkability. Real estate tycoon Sam Zell recently declared the death of suburbia, saying “You’re drawing all the young people in America to these 24/7 cities. The last thing they want to do is live in the suburbs. In that respect, you’re increasing demand for housing in the urban markets.”
But suburbs are fighting back. A study by Ellen Dunham-Jones, a professor of architecture and urban design at Georgia Tech shows that suburbs are redesigning downtown areas in order to increase walkability. “Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs” details the growing demand for urban environments in suburban locations.
“Whether it is redeveloping dying malls or retrofitting underperforming big box stores, the big design and development project of the next 50 years is going to be retrofitting suburbia,’’ Dunham-Jones said.
Kent McDill is a staff writer for Millionaire Corner. McDill spent 30 years as a sports writer, working for United Press International and the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. From 1988-1999, he covered the Chicago Bulls for the Daily Herald, traveling with them every day through the nine-month season. He also covered the Bulls for UPI from 1985-88, and currently covers the team for www.nba.com. He has written two books on the Bulls, including the new title “100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die’, published by Triumph Books. In August 2013, his new book “100 Things Bears Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die” gets published.
In 2008, he resigned from the Herald and became a freelance writer. The Herald hired him to write business features and speeches for the Daily Herald Business Conferences and Awards presentations.
McDill also writes a monthly parenting column for the Herald’s Suburban Parent magazine.
McDill is the father of four children, and an active fan of soccer, Jimmy Buffett and all things Disney.