The economics of active transportation oriented development

By Robbie Webber

While cities and developers have recognized the value of transit oriented development for quite some time, the advantages of proximity to and amenities building on active lifestyles and transportation are just beginning to emerge. Active Transportation and Real Estate: The Next Frontier, a new report from the Urban Land Institute, looks at the rise of residential, office, and mixed-use developments built around active transportation infrastructure and amenities. The report also analyzes the return on investment for cities when they invest in paths, trails, and connections benefiting pedestrians and bicyclists. Although advantages of proximity to trails has been documented in the past, much of the reporting has been anecdotal or limited to individual sites. This report brings together ten development case studies from a variety of cities and settings and includes lessons for developers who might be interested in leveraging city investments in infrastructure.

Developers are now taking advantage of civic investment in bicycling facilities, such as trails and bike lanes, and growing market demand for bike-friendly places. Buildings may feature indoor bike parking, bike sharing on site, or bike repair stations to lure residents who are drawn to active lifestyles. Many of the projects that have included bike-friendly features have experienced faster-than-expected lease-up rates, rental rate premiums over market peers, and, in some cases, the ability to market properties outside city centers as easily accessible to urban cores via trails and bike lanes. Some also feature less parking than would normally be built. This last feature obviously lowers the cost of the building as a whole and can also make residential units more affordable.

In addition to the building case studies, the report features five examples of infrastructure projects to show how active transportation infrastructure can have positive economic impacts for cities and regions. Public health and environmental goals can be aligned with these investments, and they can create opportunities for the real estate industry to develop the types of projects outlined earlier in the report.

Robbie Webber is a Senior Associate at SSTI.