As Portlanders know, walkable urban development is good for the environment and for community ties. But it also builds prosperity.
At an annual trade meeting last month, realtors and real estate developers learned about the growing demand for and economic benefits of walkable urban neighborhoods.
- Walkable areas generate four times the tax revenue of regional and business malls.
- They have a 41 percent higher Gross Domestic Product compared to non-walkable areas.
- Though home prices are generally higher in walkable neighborhoods, they are actually more affordable to residents because transportation costs – usually the second largest household expense after housing – are lower. People living in walkable areas spend 43 percent of their income on housing and transportation on average, while those in non-walkable areas spend 48 percent.
Panelists at the May meeting of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) also suggested that obsolete zoning regulations in many cities may hold back the development of walkable urban areas – and America’s economic growth.
These trends and findings seem to promise a bright future for Portland, which has long been regarded as a model of urban planning and development. Residents, developers, investors, businesses and local officials have a common interest in honoring and extending the legacy of walkable urban neighborhoods here.
Portland architecture critic Brian Libby revisited that legacy in a recent posting on Leo Williams, former head of the Portland Planning Bureau and longtime member of the Historic Landmarks Commission. Williams received the University of Oregon’s annual George McMath Award for historic preservation last month.
Libby reminds us that iconic Portland places like Waterfront Park, the Central Library, the Pittock Mansion, Old Town and Skidmore either didn’t exist or were severely threatened when Williams began his career in the late 60’s.
He took a pragmatic and collaborative approach to making the city more livable, working with developers, elected officials and residents to preserve and adapt historic landmarks worth saving, and to encourage investments in dense planning, greenspace and mass transit.
Today Portland is “a city where people want to be,” says Libby, and a place where they can expect to prosper, according to the NAR. But we have to follow Williams’ example in finding common ground for common action.