NY Times: Walkable communities desirable
The New Trend in Urban Planning: A Return to the Past
“…the market signals are flashing pretty brightly: build more walkable, and bikeable, places.“
Some say history repeats itself, and in the case of urban planning, that’s more true than ever. In the post-war 1950s, American suburbs reached their heyday. Suburban homes accessible only by car were more expensive than other homes. Half a century later, George Washington University’s Christopher Leinberger says the tides are turning back. In the New York Times Sunday Review piece “Now Coveted: A Walkable, Convenient Place,” Leinberger, a business professor, says walking has become a status symbol.
“Until the 1990s, exclusive suburban homes that were accessible only by car cost more per square foot than other kinds of American housing,” says the professor, also president of the Locus coalition, which supports walkable neighborhoods and transit-oriented development as a part of Smart Growth America. “Today, the most valuable real estate lies in walkable urban locations,” he says.
The article quotes a Brookings Institution study that that measures real estate values both commercial and residential. By studying the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area (including its Virginia and Maryland suburbs), Leinberger and colleague Mariela Alfonzo found that real estate values have begun to increase as neighborhoods became more walkable—or rather, less drivable.
For the purposes of the study, a walkable neighborhood is one that offers more opportunities to meet everyday needs not just by walking, but also via transit or biking. And though the study focuses on the D.C. area, Leinberger says the same phenomenon can be witnessed in suburbs of cities such as Seattle, Columbus, and Denver.
Leinberger proposes a “complete streets” strategy, backed by the idea that public rights of way belong to all…not just drivers. The strategy works best in urban areas or urbanized suburbs, where grocery stores, places of work, and other basics are nearby. And because walkable communities are more “concentrated” than the traditional “spread-out” suburban model, the infrastructure could cost less. Most importantly, he says, this is what today’s buyers want.
Panama Pacifico’s success is a clear indicator that this trend has made its way south. The Panama Pacifico Master Plan provides for the type of urban model described by Leinberger.
That’s why former U.S. President Bill Clinton joined the ranks of Panama Pacifico enthusiasts, praising its ecological sustainability plan and selecting the project for the Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI). Launched in May 2009, the CCI recognizes projects around the world that address the dual challenge of climate change and urbanization.
The Panama Pacifico master plan calls for everything from industrial and logistics parks to residential communities and a bustling, convenient Town Center. In short, everything anyone could possibly need to work, live and play in the region’s most modern, livable, and strategic “green” location.
With a Transportation Demand Management (TDM) program, automobile travel demand will be reduced via shuttles, carpooling, transit incentives, educational programs, and more. Close-knit, green communities with a carefully planned network of walking paths, hiking trails, bicycle lanes and wide avenues complete the sustainable urbanization model. All this by the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal…a fifteen minute drive from Panama City. It’s not only a logistics dream…it’s the ultimate in modern accessibility.
For the full article, click here.