How shifting demand could pull real estate developers (in cities and the suburbs) in a new direction over the next generation.
Not too long ago in Washington, D.C. – and still today in plenty of other cities – "walkable urbanism" was a niche real estate market. Developers weren’t all that interested in mixed-use, compact projects, of the kind where carless urbanites might live, work and grocery shop in strolling distance. And people didn’t seem to want to live in them anyway. But things have been changing in the capital. Now, argues real estate developer and George Washington University professor Christopher Leinberger, walkable urbanism is becoming the real estate market.
Washington’s evolution hints at what will happen in this next real estate cycle in cities everywhere, Leinberger concludes in new research to be presented at a conference on the topic next week. His findings build on an earlier study conducted at the Brookings Institution. In all, the Washington region now leads the nation with 43 distinct neighborhoods Leinberger has identified as “regionally significant walkable urban places” (in other words, those walkable places that also help power the metro economy as jobs centers). A mere .9 percent of the land in the entire Washington region is currently devoted to such places. But 34 percent of the region’s jobs are located there. And these places, Leinberger argues, represent the future of cities everywhere – for the coming wave of development in residential construction, in office space, in entertainment and in retail.