What is Walking Distance to You? (in Charlottesville)

“Walkable houses in Charlottesville” – one of the more frequent requests I get both from buyer clients and from visitors to this site.

But “walkable” means different things to different people.

Clarifying and pulling out buyers’ true intents is one of the most useful skills a good real estate agent brings to the table. For example, when a new buyer client tells me that he wants to be within “walking distance” of the Downtown Mall, I always follow up with:

“What is walking distance to you?”

“Your response of “less than 30 minute walking distance” is why I asked … my non-American-based clients have a much more liberal definition of close (usually less than 30 minutes or 2 miles) than do my American clients (less than 10 minutes or 5 blocks).”

So the question is – what does walkable mean to you?

As I do with a lot of the stories that make it to this here real estate blog, I started by asking on the social networks – Twitter, Facebook and Google+ and the responses were interesting and varied.

Urban living is in demand, and it’s possible to live in Charlottesville with either only one car or no car.

I’ve found that “walkable” to me means “bike able” – I’m usually on a tighter schedule than walking allows, and I’ve found Charlottesville and Crozet to be pretty bike able as long as common sense is exercised (something sorely lacking in too many drivers and bicyclists).

The City of Charlottesville has a lot of highly “walkable” homes, using Walkscore as the guide, and there are an awful lot of condos in the City of Charlottesville that offer walkability.

You can even search for homes in Charlottesville and Albemarle using Walkscore as a your guide, keeping in mind that it’s a guide - if a place has a score of 3, it’s probably not walkable. 93, you’re probably ok.

Search Charlottesville homes by Walkscore

Update 5 December 2011:

@CvilleTomorrow points to this insightful article in the NYTimes that says

But what makes high-density neighborhoods pedestrian friendly?
Good public space, for starters.
The best public spaces encourage diverse urban experiences, from people watching to protesting, daydreaming to handball, eating, reading and sunbathing to strolling and snoozing.

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About Jim Duncan

Father, husband, Charlottesville real estate agent, bicycle rider & soccer coach. And more. Lots more.
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  • Chris Bruce

    As Stephen Wright once said, “Anywhere is walking distance if you have the time.” Walking distance to me is <30 minutes. Walkscore is a good tool but for me personally it's not as useful because the scores drop dramatically if you're not within 1/4 mile of a lot of "stuff". I feel like as long as I have a lot of stuff within 1 – 1.5 miles I'm in a pretty walkable place.

    • http://www.realcentralva.com Jim Duncan

      Walkscore’s a decent guide, but you’re right – if you’re not within a 1/4 mile or so of stuff, the scores seem to decline.

  • http://twitter.com/AileenBartels Aileen Bartels

    To me, walking distance means 30 minutes, or a max distance of 2 miles.  I walk daily from my house in Belmont to my job at UVA.  To me “walkable” also means not having to cross ridiculously busy streets (like 29N) and access to continuous sidewalks.  The Mill Creek Food Lion is less than a 30 minute walk from my house but I wouldn’t dream of walking there because there’s barely a shoulder, let alone a sidewalk.

    • http://www.realcentralva.com Jim Duncan

      Aileen –

      Yep – “walkable” to me means “I probably won’t die simply by trying to walk there.” I wonder how many people in Charlottesville share your definition/interpretation of “walking distance.” 

  • Chris Roach

    With my rack and panniers, I much prefer biking places to walking. My house is just far enough from most things to have a fairly poor walkscore, but I’m a very easy bike ride to several grocery stores and only three miles from the Downtown Mall (a trip I make at least a couple of times a week).

    • http://www.realcentralva.com Jim Duncan

      As do I. It’s faster. :) Some days I wouldn’t walk a mile, but I wouldn’t think twice about hopping on the bike to go a mile or so.

      Heck, from my office off the Downtown Mall to the Corner is about a 5-7 minute bike ride. It’s a 15 minute drive some days, and a 20 minute (?) walk. Biking is a no-brainer.Also – it looks like Walkscore’s coming out with Bikescore - http://www.bikescore.com/

  • Eastmanrg

    When I moved to C’ville last January, my wife and I wanted to move to a “walkable” community so we rented a townhome in Abington place behind Target in N Albemarle. While being able to walk to the Hollymead Town Center is a nice feature, we have only done it a handful of times and still drive the 1/4 mi to Harris Teeter, Target, Panera, Starbucks etc. We are building a house now and now that we have been in a walkable community, it wasn’t a requirement when looking for a location. I think if you only have a bicycle or don’t have a car, a walkable community is important, but for someone that has driven everywhere for the last 20yrs, it really doesn’t matter.

    • http://www.realcentralva.com Jim Duncan

      So here’s my question – why don’t you walk? The benefits of walking the 1320 feet are so many – exercise, saving gas (money), saving pollution, not contributing to traffic/congestion, setting a good example for others … 

      • Eastmnarg

        I get enough exercise, the amount of gas used is so small, the cost doesn’t matter, the amount of CO2 emitted in the short amount of time I am in the car won’t cause a noticeable difference in the world’s global temperature, there are other ways of reducing traffic and congestion (higher Driver licensing fees and car insurance or higher gas taxes), when I see someone else walking I don’t think “Hey, I want to be like him!” I think, man it is hot/cold out here, I wonder if he needs a ride?
        16 yr old teenagers don’t look forward to the day that they can walk to the store, they look forward to the day when they get their drivers licenses. Automobile travel has improved the quality of life by allowing us to travel farther in a short amount of time, carrying more weight per person and the cost of automobile travelling/ownership has remained fairly affordable.
        I like to walk, but if I am in a hurry, I love to drive!