The Walkable City – Achievable in Charlottesville?

What would it take to make Charlottesville and Albemarle truly walkable? People who live in areas that are walkable are happier, leaner, have more money for leisure, spend more time with their families … is that really achievable in the Charlottesville area?

The answer is – the public would have to express its desire for this, the leaders would have to listen to the people, collaborate, plan and execute a vision that would enable the City of Charlottesville and County of Albemarle to create more walkable and bikeable localities. Of course, in an area that takes 30+ years to build a short Parkway, I think there’s a better chance of flying cars gaining prominence than thoughtful infrastructure being implemented.

What could be done to craft a truly walkable City/County?

Walkability matters – there are growing urban cores within Charlottesville and Albemarle and the sprawlish segmentation continues. But … what if each of these urban cores grows up and densely?

This is the original Google Map I did in 2007. I’ve updated it for today’s world. Biscuit Run is no longer planned. Albemarle Place is now Stonefield (and is built). North Pointe is far off in the horizon.

This is a map of the “town centers” in the Charlottesville – Albemarle area

(If you’re looking for homes near these, use the radius search on my search site)

Update 17 October 2013: This is an excellent story at CNBC I just found (read the whole thing):

“Walkability plays a big part in an area’s economic vibrancy,” said Scott Bricker, executive director of America Walks, a national nonprofit that fosters walkable communities. “The most valuable real estate around the world is in walkable places, places where people are living and working in closer proximity.”

Researchers have found that areas with high Walk Scores fare better environmentally (less use of cars), socially (better chances of connecting with someone face to face) and economically. A recent study published in Real Estate Economics found that in neighborhoods with greater walkability, the resale value of both residential and commercial properties is higher. And according to a 2009 report commissioned by CEOs for Cities, “a one-point increase in Walk Score was associated with an increase in value ranging from $700 to $3,000 depending on the market.”

“There’s a strong preference for being in a neighborhood where people can walk to shops, restaurants, parks,” said Joe Molinaro, managing director of community and public affairs at the National Association of Realtors, which found that two-thirds of respondents in its 2011 Consumer Preference Survey said that walkability was an important factor when deciding where to live. “We asked people for tradeoffs—comparing different things they might have to give up to get that—and more and more are willing to make a sacrifice to be in a walkable neighborhood.”

Given this premise, how does one find walkable homes in the Charlottesville area?

First, start with defining what “walking distance” means to you. What do you need/want to walk to? Parks? Grocery store? Schools? Work? Recreation?

Second, Would you consider riding a bicycle to extend your range?

Third – figure out your comfortable price point for a home. Then, factor in transportation costs. Most mortgages don’t yet factor in transportation (Location Efficient Mortgages) costs as a qualifying factor, but one day they might.

Fourth – Start driving and walking around your target areas. I find that most of my buyer clients, whether they have kids or not, use public schools as a locational baseline.

FifthAsk questions. Really. At this point (really, before this), I firmly believe that most buyers can benefit from a guide in the form of a talented buyer’s agent (for an excellent example of this, subscribe to my monthly note; I’ll send you this month’s note).


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1 Comment

  1. Simon Campbell October 20, 2013 at 22:03

    Often in my experience, installation of pathways for bikers and walkers are driven (pardon the pun) by non-profit and other community outreach organizations rather than local government. The process can take time, but the benefits are substantial and measurable.


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