The days of cities focused on highways and malls are slowly ending. Planners have learned that attracting Millennials means turning the town green. Parks, shopping and necessities within walking distance help to move once-dying cities into recovery mode. Younger Americans are also much more open to not having a car (and the financial outlay that comes with it). But walkability is not just important to Millennials; retirees also are attracted by a city's openness to walking.
It's not just for fun. Savvy older people know they need to look ahead to the point where driving may no longer be an option so being in a place friendly to walkers is even more important to them. Not to mention that walking is also crucial for continued good health.
Even Detroit, a city once left for dead is seeing signs of healing – all because of a commitment by businesses moving back into the city that has resulted in other new businesses to serve the new employees, including restaurants and apartments, all with a focus on easy access on foot and by public transportation.
If you want to know how friendly a city is to walkers, look at its Walk Score, rating created by a company (of the same name) founded in 2007 and part of real estate database and brokerage company Redfin since 2014. Things like good public transportation; shorter, easier commutes; and quick access to things people love make for a more sustainable and healthy lifestyle, according the Walk Score criteria.
Walk Score is more than a vanity rating. It affects property values. That’s why popular real estate websites like Trulia and Zillow feature Walk Score prominently in their lists. Redfin measured the correlation between high Walk Scores and selling prices and found that a one-point increase in a city’s Walk Score meant a 0.9% increase in property values. That’s an average of $3,250 for each point.
In Denver, for example, a 20-point increase in its Walk Score could mean that the average home value would increase $84,000!
City leaders are taking notice. The Walk Score effect bodes well for any city that creates walkable communities with personality and safety.
Where exactly are the most walkable cities in America? The top five are:
1. New York City (top neighborhoods: Little Italy, Flatiron District, Chinatown)
2. San Francisco (top neighborhoods: Chinatown, Downtown/Union Square, Lower Nob Hill)
3. Boston (top neighborhoods: Chinatown-Leather District, North End, Beacon Hill)
4. Philadelphia (top neighborhoods: Rittenhouse Square, Avenue of the Arts South, Center City West)
5. Miami (top neighborhoods: Downtown, Little Havana, Wynwood-Edgewater)
Rounding out the top 10: Chicago; Washington, D.C.; Seattle; Oakland; and Long Beach. Click here for the complete list.