It is so depressing to think about how much further along in their thinking that places like New York City are than Saskatoon in realizing that not all people own cars. Just think about it, a street designed for cars, pedestrians, and cyclists. It could one day happen in Saskatoon.
The next real estate cycle will be defined by the rise of Walkable Urban Places (WalkUPs) and the fall of sprawl development according to a report from George Washington University.
The importance of a high quality streetscape can be seen by comparing it to the impact where the streetscape is poor. Oxford Street offices command a lower rent than the surrounding areas due to the concentration of traffic15 and in other London shopping streets, tenants on the asphalted side of a road compare their situation unfavourably with the tenants on the other side of the road, which is paved with York stone. One of the interviewees stated that the company has ‘considered disinvesting’ from areas where the streetscape was felt to be very poor.
A London study found that improvements in the street design quality can add an average of 4.9 per cent to retail rents of all shops and premises located on the high street. The most
important street elements for users were: lighting, footpath quality and maintenance, vehicles not parked on the footpath, provision of crossings, local area maps, information boards and signed routes.
“America has never confronted a global challenge of the type or magnitude it faces today,” concludes Doherty. “If it does not change course, the United States will be racked by violent storms — both figurative and literal — as the global order breaks down. The country cannot delay. For a few short years, it has a window in which it can choose an incredibly prosperous 21st century, but that window will close. It is time once more to lead the world through difficult change.”
The U.S.’s economic engine, foreign policy, and infrastructure are all out of date, argues Doherty, and to meet the interdependent challenges of the 21st century’s strategic landscape – inclusion, depletion, depression, and resilience – the country will need to develop a new strategy: to “lead the global transition to sustainability.”
As part of that strategy he envisions a new economic engine for the United States oriented around walkable communities, regenerative agriculture, a revolution in resource productivity, investment in regional growth, and the transition to a reduced carbon emitting energy sector. This strategy will have major implications for the country’s foreign policy and governance structures.
Some lessons for Saskatoon and Saskatchewan in there as well.
Most Americans want to live in walkable neighborhoods, but only a fraction can afford it. Housing in places with easy access to stores, restaurants, jobs, and public transit is in short supply, and only about a third of those who say they want to live in walkable neighborhoods actually do. Aaccording to a new study, the people lucky enough to live in the most walkable neighborhoods are often also be the most well-off.
Brookings Institution researchers Christopher Leinberger and Mariela Alfonzo set out to create metrics for judging a neighborhood’s walkability and monitoring its progress. They picked a sample of neighborhoods in the Washington, D.C., area and, by examining several aspects of each one, assigned each a walkability score between one and five.
Once each neighborhood received a score, the researchers began exploring what distinguished high performers from low ones. They found that the most walkable communities boasted the strongest economies—and the most costly housing. Moving up one walkability point came with a $300 monthly bump in rent. Those living in the most walkable communities spent a greater portion of their income on housing and tended to be wealthier. As Leinberger told Atlantic Cities, “Only the wealthiest among us can afford to live in [these neighborhoods]."
Of course the problem is that if you invested heavily on 33rd Street, it would gentrify Mayfair and the north part of Caswell Hill. It’s not the fault of the street or urban planning, it’s just the process of investing in really liveable streets; once you build them, people will come.