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Improve Your Pedestrian Infrastructure for Better Economic Development

Infrastructure issues are often a municipal maintenance issue. But a community is a whole system, and infrastructure can certainly affect other parts of the system, like economic development. As an EDO, you know that fast-growing communities often struggle to meet the infrastructure needs of their citizens, which can affect the economic prosperity of a community in tangible ways. 

What Infrastructure Issues Affect Economic Development?

The infrastructure most likely to have a direct impact on economic development is pedestrian infrastructure. Aging infrastructure like narrow crumbling sidewalks and outdated water lines are all important factors for local businesses. Walkability is a key factor for the economic success of growing communities. 

Walkable districts generally include wide smooth sidewalks, public benches and good lighting, trees, and a buffer between traffic and pedestrians. Well-kept buildings with welcoming entrances help to make a business district more attractive for citizens of your community and visitors alike. 

The Effect of Improving Walkability On Economic Development?

Improved walkability has a positive effect on property values, as well as the revenue levels of retail outlets in walkable areas. Most real estate listings now include a walk score for each home they sell. The walk score is based on how long it would take to walk to basic amenities from the home. The less time it takes to get to a location, the better the score. 

On average, an increase of one point on a walk score can increase the value of a home by $3,250, or 0.9%. 

This number can vary based on a few different factors, like the overall walk score of the neighbourhood. On the lower end of the walk score, a change from a score of 17 to 18 will not deliver the same level of increase, but there will still be an increase, however small.

A study completed by The George Washington University School of Business of different walkable neighbourhoods in Washington, D.C., found that in walkable neighbourhoods the average vacancy adjusted annual office rent is $36.78 per square foot, compared to $20.98 for office rents in driving focused areas. Houses for sale in walkable neighbourhoods are valued up to 71% higher than in less walkable neighbourhoods. And income properties, including offices, apartments, retail stores, institutional buildings, and all other lease or rental real estate, accounts for 33% of metro D.C. real estate income.

The majority of DC's walkable neighbourhoods already have, or are in the process of installing rail transit hubs in the community. The study estimates that 34% of metropolitan jobs are located in walkable communities. 

Walkable Neighbourhoods Are Better for The Economy

image2-5Developing more walkable neighbourhoods in your community is not just a municipal infrastructure issue. Adjusting streets for walkability improves business, safety, and makes a neighbourhood attractive for the growing number of people who prefer not to own a vehicle, whether for financial or environmental reasons. Walkable streets, because they are so focused on the needs of pedestrians, also contribute strongly to placemaking, since they provide space for, and encourage friendly social interaction. 

Make Walkability a Priority in Your Next BR&E Strategy

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References: 

https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2018/10/26/18025000/walkable-city-walk-score-economy

https://www.citylab.com/design/2013/01/case-walkability-economic-development-tool/4317/

https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/25-walkable-places-leinberger.pdf 

https://www.redfin.com/blog/how-much-is-a-point-of-walk-score-worth 

https://www.smartgrowthamerica.org/app/legacy/documents/Walkup-report.pdf 

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