Walkability research has been an interest of mine for much of my time in the MUEP program at ASU. Walkability is an issue of accessibility with many positive externalities. Young, old, poor and disabled often struggle in built environments that ignore the needs of the pedestrian. Attractive urban design often include sidewalks with street furniture, street trees, social atmospheres, open space, a variety of store fronts with architecture programmed to respond to traffic at 3 miles per hour instead of 55 miles per hour.
This study, in the Phoenix area, shows walkability is commonly found in association with higher valued properties. This relationship becomes quite prevalent at Walk Scores of 70 or better, and conversely, should be persued cautiously in geography with lower walk scores (as they will require more commitment to obtain the same benefit).
The study offers the following conclusions:
- High Walk Scores may improve commercial performance.
- Walk Scores correlate better with commercial property prices than commercial intensity counts alone.
- The geography of Walk Scores and commercial property prices do have a tendency to cluster.
A few caveats should be considered with respect to the conclusions:
1) Square footage used is a contrived figure using a sum of both the total square footage of the parcel plus the finished square footage of the building. This was done to consider the total site and space as experienced by the pedestrian and not simply excusing the underutilized space of parking lots.
2) The property values used came from the Maricopa County Assessor. These values may not be a good representation of market prices. (In any respect, the price per square foot should be a conservative estimate.)
3) Walk Score methodology is impossible to discern if Walkability, in its truest sense, is really to credit for the benefit to commercial value. However, the combination of synergy, proximity, diversity and routes are clearly established as beneficial to commercial property value, which speaks highly to the performance of the land use and circulation elements that contribute to these outcomes.