ROBERT WOOD JOHNSON FOUNDATION
Walkable commercial districts are a key component of communities that promote active living. Walking has great health benefits, including helping people maintain a healthy weight. This report examines whether there are also economic benefits to businesses in walkable communities. The study consisted of a meta-analysis of 70 studies and articles. However, there have been few studies that address economic performance directly and the author conducted an exploratory study of 15 walkable shopping areas judged as successful to examine the sources of success.
- There is great enthusiasm for walkable shopping areas among retail experts, developers and many residents of urban and suburban areas;
- Walking shopping areas have a potential to prosper as a result of demographics, increased gas prices, public policies encouraging higher densities and changing life style preferences;
- Businesses can be successful if such areas reach a critical mass, cater to diverse needs, are located in higher density areas or have good mass transit service, and have a supermarket as an anchor;
- With success, enterprises in walkable shopping areas are able to pay higher rents for their space, and housing near walkable commercial areas commonly sells for higher prices than in more distant areas.
While the economic performance of walkable shopping areas is worthy of continued empirical research, including interviewing merchants, all the evidence seems to suggest that walkable retail is on the upswing, and likely to grow over the next several decades. Since 45% of daily trips, on average, are made for shopping and running errands, encouraging walking is an important strategy in reducing obesity and improving health. It is also important to reducing energy usage and carbon emissions.
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