Street Redesign Provides Path to Prosperity

An award-winning street redesign project in the Los Angeles exurb of Lancaster provides a case study in the value of retrofitting for walkability.

In a pattern that's "all too typical of America in the late 20th century," falling home prices, high unemployment, sprawling development, and a declining downtown defined this exurban city located in northern Los Angeles County. That is, until "municipal foresight, excellent recent planning, and green ambition," led the city to adopt a form-based zoning code for the downtown Lancaster Boulevard corridor and hire the architecture and planning firm Moule & Polyzoides "to capitalize on the opportunities created by the code by redesigning the boulevard to attract businesses and people."

The result of those efforts is "a rejuvenated section of downtown now named THE BLVD," which recently won a National Award for Smart Growth Achievement from the EPA. The pedestrianization of Lancaster Boulevard has spurred a wave of economic development in the area, including a 10 percent rise in downtown property values, 49 new businesses, a near doubling of revenue generated, and 1,900 new and permanent jobs.

"Is Lancaster Boulevard the best or most walkable district in America?" asks Benfield. " Not by a long shot.  But the change is tangible, giving the city something to build upon and setting an example for similarly situated communities.  All while re-using infrastructure and reducing emissions from car travel by taking advantage of a central location that shortens driving distances and encourages walking."

Full Story: How retrofitting a California suburb for walkability is spurring economic development


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