Walkable Urbanism

Takin' It to the Streets

The other reason is quality of life. "With walkable urbanism, as you add density, put more people on the street, and give them more to do within walking distance, it just keeps getting better," Leinberger explains.

"The latest consumer research suggests that 30 to 40 percent of U.S. households want it in some form," he adds.

That's why transit stations and bus- and tram-served arterials are attracting a rich mix of development.

"It's a moral imperative to add density to any place with transit."

So says Brookings Institution Fellow and University of Michigan Real Estate Professor Christopher Leinberger.

One reason is sustainability—buildings and transportation are the two biggest causes of CO2 emissions. Urban-scale building near public transit helps cut them dramatically.

In the City

Demand for walkable urbanism means "urban living has traction today," says Brookings' demographer Alan Berube. "More people are choosing them, because they're safer places. They're better run, and their amenity options are strong."

Downtowns are gaining population as a result, he notes.

"Cities are creating a life downtown—a place of residence as well as of employment," Berube says. "That sends a signal about their renewed health."

A Capital Idea

"Twenty years ago, Washington, D.C. only had two urbane walkable destinations," says Leinberger.

"Today, there are 18—17 of them are anchored by Metrorail stations."

Urban amenities like the AFI Silver Theatre, led Discovery Communications to move its Headquarters and Technology Center to Metrorail-served downtown Silver Spring.

Shop Around

To support mass transit, close-in suburbs need to mix jobs with housing, providing "a slightly denser style of living," Brookings' Berube says. The threshold density is around 0.8 FAR (Floor Area Ratio).

Discovery Communications' opening move in Silver Spring was to convert a downtown department store into its Technology Center.

With all the restaurants and cafes nearby, the building didn't need to provide a cafeteria.

Living for the City

Tomorrow's thriving metropolis is likely to be a network of dense, compact centers that offer a full range of urban uses—a pattern that's both socially and economically robust.

Walkable urbanism is finding converts today in cities and suburbs alike because people recognize that it lets them live and work in a better, more sustainable way.

Story
John Parman—Gensler Firmwide Communications

Images*
Block 37 Project Team: pages 1—2
Sherman Takata (Gensler—San Francisco): page 3
Chun Y Lai: page 4
Paul Warchol: page 5
Ted Washington: page 6


*For detailed information, please roll over imagery on individual story pages.

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