What do you call an area that mixes retail, business and residential while remaining friendly to pedestrians? A Walkable Urban Place, or WalkUP. A George Washington University researcher has identified 43 WalkUPs in the Greater Washington region, and the area he refers to as Van Ness (really Forest Hills) is one.
An article about Professor Christopher Leinberger’s work in the Greater Greater Washington blog describes his research on the connection between walkable neighborhoods and economic vitality.
Compared to other WalkUPs, Forest Hills ranks low in economic opportunity, and in the middle when it comes to social equity. But Prof. Leinberger thinks WalkUPs in general have a terrific advantage over more car-dependent neighborhoods.
Though they take up less than 1% of the land in Greater Washington, WalkUPs already have a third of the region’s jobs. They contain nearly half of the region’s “income properties,” or offices, apartments, hotels and retail space, up from just a quarter in 1992. Office rents and home values in WalkUPs are each over 70% higher than elsewhere in the region. Not surprisingly, WalkUPs tend to contribute more in tax revenues than the amount of land they consume.
Prof. Leinberger is concerned about economic equity in some less-walkable neighborhoods because they do not attract the services and jobs their residents need. He is also concerned about social inequity in the existing WalkUPs.
To ensure the future economic success and social cohesion of the WalkUPs, Leinberger calls for public policies that direct more development to them through zoning and investment in infrastructure, like more pedestrian-friendly streets. In addition, he says more must be done to provide affordable and workforce housing in WalkUPs, both through subsidies and simply building more housing to meet the demand. (Read more)
We’ve been thinking about what the Van Ness area needs. And we have perspective of city planners from last fall’s Coalition for Smarter Growth walk. This piece gives us even another perspective with which to view the potential – real and missed – of the Van Ness area.