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Walkable Urbanism Sets the Pace for Real Estate Recovery

As the real estate market comes back to life, walkable urbanism is poised to become the dominant mode of development across America. Emily Badger explains why Washington D.C.'s land use evolution portends the future of cities everywhere.
September 5, 2012, 11am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Once seen as a niche real estate market, walkable urbanism is poised to become the real estate market in America. So says George Washington University professor Christopher Leinberger, who will present his research on the growth of walkable urbanist development in Washington D.C. at a ULI conference on the topic next week. For Leinberger, the trends he's observed in Washington, which "now leads the nation with 43 distinct neighborhoods [he] has identified as 'regionally significant walkable urban places,'" will be coming soon to cities everywhere.

"Less than 10 percent of the entire metropolitan land mass is where development wants to go over the next generation," Leinberger says. "We don't need to add another square foot – or, in the case of sprawl, another square mile – of land to the metropolitan area. We've already urbanized as much as we need to."

"It helps his argument that he's talking in market trends and not moral imperatives," writes Badger. "Much of the conversation around 'walkable urbanism' sounds almost paternalistic to suburban ears, as if everyone should and must decamp to high-rise condos above a Whole Foods."

"He isn't advocating that suburbanites move downtown. If he's imploring anyone to action, it's the builders and real estate developers who don't seem to have picked up on shifting market demand yet, and the policymakers who have the power to clear obstacles to this kind of development (for starters, by promoting multi-modal transportation and mixed land use)."

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Published on Wednesday, September 5, 2012 in The Atlantic Cities
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