Simply put, urban economics is the study of buildings and cities and why they develop the way they do. Urban economics help us to determine why certain places are so much more vital than others through the exploration of land-use, zoning, employment patterns, and the price of land.
Over the last century cities have experienced massive change. With the arrival of the automobile our cities transformed from the once walkable urban areas they were into soulless, car-centric cities surrounded by outlying suburbs. By the 1980s most of the real estate investment and development energy had shifted to business parks, malls and sub-divisions.
But now we’re back to wondering whether cars should be part of the equation. Cities and cars are an expensive mismatch and we can see that cars waste space. Several American cities are even considering demolishing highways to reclaim precious land.
One of the more recent additions to the toolbox for the urban economist is the measurement of walkability. Walkable neighborhoods are once again seeing a renaissance. They not only offer residents more convenience and character, but also a more active and environmentally friendly lifestyle. And we’re also discovering that walk scores can have serious economic consequences. Redfin, owners of the go-to application for measuring walkability Walk Score®, say that one Walk Score point can increase the value of a home by an average of $3,250. Hence an increasing number of new developments are being planned as mixed-use communities where residents can walk to all the amenities they need.
Christopher Leinberger’s fascination with cities started at an early age and evolved into an astounding career working on urban land issues as a strategist, teacher, developer, researcher and author. He was a member of the original board of Walk Score and continues to use the tool in his research at The Brookings Institute and George Washington University. With his latest endeavour, Places Platform, he’s building a “Sim City for real estate and place management and city management” by developing more tools and methodologies to measure economic, social equity and environmental conditions in cities and metropolitan areas.
If you’re a city lover, like I am, listen to my interview with Christopher Leinberger
Image courtesy of John D Norton