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    Nat Rea, Courtesy of Union Studio

    CONCORD RIVERWALK
    Concord Riverwalk, selected as Community of the year by the NAHB, is based on a century-old idea of a bungalow community.

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    Nat Rea, Courtesy of Union Studio

    CONCORD RIVERWALK
    The homes are located half a mile from the Assabet River walk, and in the other direction, half mile from West Concord town services.

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    Nat Rea, Courtesy of Union Studio

    CONCORD RIVERWALK
    Interiors are traditional, but with sightlines and light traveling all through the homes.

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    Ross Chapin Architects in collaboration with Union Studio

    CONCORD RIVERWALK
    The site plan encourages interaction amongst residents.

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    Shem Rose

    FINNEY CROSSING
    Snyder Homes received no opposition from neighbors or community leaders when planning the new development.

     


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    Jim Westphalen

    FINNEY CROSSING
    Floor plans optimize privacy by limiting windows that face other units and offering private entrances when possible.

     



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    Courtesy Snyder Homes

    FINNEY CROSSING
    The site is adjacent to open land to the north and mixed-use development such as a pharmacy, a grocery, restaurants, a movie theater, and a community college to the south.

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    Courtesy South Main Building Co.

    SOUTH MAIN
    The town of Buena Vista is a walkable community on the Arkansas River.

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    Dustin Urban

    SOUTH MAIN
    Residences are live-work in the traditional sense, with flats above retail.

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    Kenny Craft

    SOUTH MAIN
    Housing types vary, from old-style flats above retail establishments to rustic single-family townhomes.

     

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    SOUTH MAIN
    About 40 residential units are now complete with an eventual goal of 300.

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    Courtesy Ranquist Development

    THE BACKYARD
    The Backyard is in Andersonville, a vibrant Chicago neighborhood with restaurants, music, and transit close by.

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    Patrick Warneka

    The project had fallen on hard times during the downturn and was rescued by Ranquist Development.

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    Patrick Warneka

    Units offer privacy while being in the midst of an urban core with all the conveniences.

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    There are 23 townhomes, with backyards that range from 200 to 1,700 square feet.

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    Frank Domin

    901 JEFFERSON
    901 Jefferson is close to food shopping, transit, and the offices of Oakland City Center. It gets a Walkscore of 95.

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    Frank Domin

    901 JEFFERSON
    As opposed to many walkable developments, Oakland actually has too much retail storefront space. One of the challenges was making ground-floor residences private, light, and quiet.

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    901 JEFFERSON
    The building is unabashedly modern, but it was built on the scale of the Victorian homes in the adjacent neighborhood.

All Stories on Walkability

  • Why Smart Builders Care About Walkability

    Increasingly, the market is demanding places where homeowners can hoof it. Here are some ways you can deliver.

  • the project had fallen on hard times during the downturn and was rescued by ranquist development.

    Urban Infill

    Homeowners get the feel of a swanky townhouse while living in a vibrant urban neighborhood.

  • Rural and Walkable

    Sales are “substantially higher” in this neighborhood than in non-connected communities.

  • 901 jefferson is close to food shopping, transit, and the offices of oakland city center. it gets a walkscore of 95.

    Lively and Livable Downtown

    901 Jefferson is close to transit, offices, retail, entertainment, and great food shopping.

  • A Connected Community

    At Concord Riverwalk, cars take a back seat to pedestrians.

  • residences are live-work in the traditional sense, with flats above retail.

    Back to the Future

    Nestled at the base of Colorado's Collegiate Peaks, the new homes and shops of South Main mimic the aesthetics and attitude of the...

 

The more you talk about walkability, the clearer it becomes that it’s a vast subject, involving health, community, the environment, demographics, and economics, to name a few. “It’s so complicated, and it’s so simple,” says Carson Looney, principal of Looney Ricks Kiss in Memphis, Tenn. In the end, he says, “walkability is common sense.”

Having designed walkable places in urban, suburban, and rural locations, Looney is quick to add that walkability doesn’t have to be synonymous with urban core. Vibrant city neighborhoods are wonderful, but “only a segment of the population gets to experience that,” he says. “It’s about creating a better place, a destination, an experience.”

Walkability is also a business opportunity. Oft-cited studies by economist Joe Cortright and by developer Christopher Leinberger (both nonresident senior fellows at the Brookings Institution) confirm that homes with access to goods and services by foot perform better economically. “The typical working American pays as much for transportation as housing,” says city planner Jeff Speck, principal of Speck & Associates. “Home builders need to realize that when they build a home where people don’t need to drive, they should be able to charge more.”

Millennials are a big force in the demand for walkability, and they’re opting for the city in droves, says Speck in his latest book, Walkable City. “The biggest population bubble in the last 50 years” wants to live in places with excitement and buzz. How to create that where it doesn’t exist? “If we’re talking about new communities, the only answer is mixed-use and walkability,” Speck says.

Millennials, though, are just part of the picture. As baby boomers get older, many are opting to live in places where they don’t have to drive as much to get to services and where they can age in place. Walk Score, a metric that’s the current darling of the real estate market, is a basic measure of services within a certain radius. However, it doesn’t take into account the quality of the walk to get there--a gritty quarter mile along an underpass being vastly different than a tree-lined three-quarter mile with interesting houses and shops along the way. Still, Walk Score is a start, so the numbers are included in the projects that follow, as well as (when available) market data from Metrostudy, Hanley Wood’s research arm.

Here’s what’s important when you’re thinking about building good places that are walkable.

Look to the past
It’s a great source of ideas that work, says Donald Powers, principal of Union Studio Architecture & Community Design in Providence, R.I. “Density and adjacency increase sociability,” he says. Mid-block alleys, “a staple of residential planning from the 1920s and 30s,” says Powers, lessen emphasis on the car. Small setbacks can help houses relate to the sidewalk, and courtyards encourage interaction. Corners are important, says Looney, and houses built on them should play to the street. “Give 5 more feet to the corner lot and let the porch wrap,” says Looney. “The house is just one element, not the element,” he says.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: El Paso, TX, Los Angeles, CA, Tucson, AZ.