Highlights from “Advancing Ohio’s Urban Agenda”

On our journey from Cincinnati to Columbus to Cleveland for the joint ULI/GOPC/LOCUS event series, “Advancing Ohio’s Urban Agenda: Walkable Communities for Globally Competitive Cities,” trends amongst the three cities became apparent as participants engaged in the dialogue about addressing the market demand for walkable development in Ohio. We were able to capture some of these trends in both text and film (yes, videos are coming!) form and would like to share some of the key highlights with you.

Highlights from the Events:

  • Millennials (aka Generation Y) are shifting market demand and cities in Ohio must meet that demand for walkable, urban development in order to remain globally competitive.
  • As more walkable development (approximately 100-500 meters in diameter of mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly development) is added to areas, their property values increase and the local market improves.
  • Transportation drives development. If developers build quality products in the right locations with access to urban-friendly transportation systems, they will get a price premium. Seventy percent of ballots across the nation to increase sales tax to fund public transportation have passed.
  • Parking is part of the transportation system. The space needed for cars can decrease with decked garages and underground parking. Parking ratios can decrease by encouraging double and triple uses of parking spaces at different times of the day and week with various activities and events.
  • In response to the high cost of living in walkable places for residents, developers should create more walkable places and include affordable housing.
  • Developing walkable urbanism often requires a private-public partnership. The role of “place management” (such as that of business improvement districts) cannot be overstated. The private sector can lead the way with support from the public sector.
  • Place-based and regional governance is needed to identify target areas for densification and investment. These areas should have the capacity, infrastructure and transportation systems to support dense, walkable development.
  • The right mix of residential, office and retail depends on the location and business cycle of the area. It’s a good idea to have a mix that encourages activity at all times of the day. Generally, retail follows residents. See Chris Leinberger’s presentation for the six typologies of walkable development; varying product types and mixes perform differently.
  • By reusing structures with “great bones,” reinvesting in central business districts, and updating our zoning and form based codes, we can solve many of our cities’ vacancy issues.
  • We need to stop subsidizing the kind of development that will not help us stay competitive and start strategically planning how to become what we would like to be in the future. Using comprehensive plans to make decisions and focus resources is important. As Chris Leinberger pointed out, we need to decide if we want to join the 21st century economy, and if so, and how we want to build. Each of us has the opportunity to be agents of change, each with our own respective roles.
  • GOPC and LOCUS can help developers and real estate professionals provide a voice for walkable, sustainable development in policy at the state and federal levels.

The discussions that ensued in each of the cities during these events brought up a diversity of topics, including the high cost of drivable suburban infrastructure, the importance of jobs and business attraction, the role of education, the effect of great public spaces, the market demand of the “creative class,” the impact of technology, and the roles that individuals can plan in creating change in Ohio’s cities.

Stay tuned for more information and videos from these events!

Urban Attraction in Ohio

The recent upsurge in demand for rental properties in Columbus’ downtown neighborhoods has gained increasing exposure in news sources. The Columbus Dispatch article “Urban Renewal” notes that, “The urban-living renaissance is real” and that

“more and more people, especially young singles, have come to demand the benefits that only city life can bestow: restaurants, entertainment, parks and workplaces within walking distance; a lively atmosphere; and plenty of other young professionals as neighbors.”

These trends are also apparent in U.S. Census data: between 2000 and 2010, the City of Columbus grew in population by 10.6%.

National trends, cited by the likes of LOCUS President Chris Leinberger and the Urban Land Institute, have suggested that both Baby Boomers and Generation Y are moving back to inner cities to take advantage of the many available amenities and walkable communities. At Greater Ohio Policy Center, we were interested in finding whether these trends held true for Ohio’s eight largest cities.

An upcoming GOPC report will explain the trends for Baby Boomers and Generation Y living in and around Ohio’s major cities. The graphs below present a preview of some of our findings:

Figure 1. The above chart compares the percentage of Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1965 for this study) and Generation Y (born between 1981 and 2000 for this study) in the City of Columbus and the surrounding metropolitan area between 1970 and 2010. There was a 6.04% growth of Generation Y in City of Columbus from 2000 to 2010. Source: U.S. Census.

Figure 2. The above graph shows the general decline in the percentage of Baby Boomers in Ohio’s eight largest cities from 1970 to 2010. Source: U.S. Census.

Figure 3. The above graph shows the change in percentage of Generation Y in Ohio’s eight largest cities between 2000 and 2010. Source: U.S. Census.

What do these trends mean for Ohio’s major metropolises?

Columbus Dispatch article “Rush to rent, and build apartments,” Columbus Underground post “Neighborhood Launch to Break Ground on New Apartments and Condos in 2012,” and NPR piece “Rust Belt Reboot Has Downtown Cleveland Rocking” call attention to the developers who are struggling to keep up with the demand for rental residences in walkable urban communities in Columbus and Cleveland, respectively. This demand for walkable neighborhoods with nearby amenities may increase as Baby Boomers age and desire more convenient lifestyles as well as proximity to their children and grandchildren.  As for retaining these populations, especially Generation Y, in urban areas—thereby helping to decrease our collective fossil fuel consumption, urban vacancy and blight, health issues related to inactivity, and greenfield consumption—our cities will have to compete to provide employment, quality schools, and world-class amenities.

GOPC’s upcoming report will further explain what these and other trends mean for Ohio’s major cities, and what policy drivers and incentives can be offered to attract and retain our country’s two largest demographic groups: the Baby Boomers and their children.

The Importance of Walkable Neighborhoods

By John Gardocki, GO Intern

In a New York Times article by Chris Leinberger, President of LOCUS,   convenient, walkable places are in demand.  Different cities throughout the U.S. are reaping benefits from making their cities walkable, friendly environments. Leinberger provides many examples of the demand for walkable cities including Columbus, OH, Denver, CO, and Seattle, WA.  Leinberger stresses the integration of developers and investors to work towards walkable communities.

Leinberger uses a tool he calls the walkability ladder, a step by step analysis rating least walkable to most walkable.  This tool can be used to evaluate the strength of the city. As a neighborhood moves up each step of the five-step walkability ladder, the average household income of those who live there increases some $10,000.  Leinberger’s article finds that on average, each step up the walkability ladder adds $9 per square foot to annual office rents, $7 per square foot to retail rents, more than $300 per month to apartment rents and nearly $82 per square foot to home values.

In a study by Brookings Institution, completed by Mariela Alfonzo and Leinberger about the effect walkability has on commercial and residential real estate, many walkable communities are seeing postive changes to property values.  Brookings found:

  1. More walkable places perform better economically
  2. Walkable places benefit from being near other walkable places
  3. Residents of more walkable places have lower transportation costs and higher transit access, but also higher housing costs
  4. Residents of places with poor walkability are generally less affluent and have lower educational attainment than places with good walkability

Walkable communities are especially important to the younger generation.  According to Brookings, young families want the advantages of walkable urban life, but also high-quality suburban schools.  This trend is about the revitalization of center cities and the urbanization of suburbs. Brookings reports that in Columbus, the highest housing values recorded by Zillow in 1996 were in the suburb of Worthington, where prices were 135 percent higher than in the struggling neighborhood of Short North, adjacent to the city’s center.  Today, Short North housing values are 30 percent higher than those of Worthington, and downtown Columbus has the highest housing values in the metropolitan area.  The Short North and downtown have become more walkable with the revitalization of the area by the artistic and LBGT movements.  The Short North Arts District lists many of the galleries, retail, and dining along High Street which makes up the Short North

Grandview Heights is a great example of a suburban enclave that is taking urbanization to heart.   Grandview is already a walkable city with access to bike paths and the COTA system.  The Mayor of Grandview talks about future plans to make the community even greater in this Columbus Underground article.  A major goal of this city is the development of mixed-use which requires walkability to be a high priority.  Making housing affordable is also a challenge the Mayor wants to address because some families are being pushed out of this neighborhood.

To articulate the effect walkability has played in this study, Ohio cities should take a new perspective at improving the sense of walkability in their communities.  Cities working together with business associations like the Short North Arts District can help improve the way residents and visitors interact with the city form.