Walkable Urban Places

In the US the dominant form of urban development over much of the second half of the 20th century took the form of low-density urban sprawl, to which one would typically need to drive. With the rise of New Urbanism, and a new paradigm based on the theories of those like Richard Florida, this trend shifted in favour of higher density, mixed format development to which one could typically walk. In partnership with my US colleagues, George Washington University has published a report analysing the relative performance and economic contribution of these two urban types. The findings are relatively stark. The report finds that whilst the latter group of walkable urban places currently comprises less than 1% of the land mass of US metro areas, it accounted for over 72% of the absorption of office and multifamily space in top cities in the period since 2010. On average the rent premium for these forms of development was 75% greater than for urban sprawl, and the capitalisation rate was up to 50% higher, leading to a multiplicate capital premium. Whilst concentrated city centre development has been more normal in the UK, the findings of the report parallel an observable outperformance of city centre locations on this side of the pond. As the activities which our city centres host continues to evolve, it is increasingly in these concentrations that the higher value-added activity is being carried out, whilst those areas which respond less well to dense human interaction start to lose purpose.