The Walkable Community: A Good Development for All

In an earlier blog post on The Walkable Community, we provided an overview of evidence supporting the bottom-line case for creating (or transforming) walkable communities and highlighted the ever- expanding body of literature and statistics that show a significant connection between increased retail revenues and environments that prioritize the pedestrian over the automobile.

On the business case for investing in walkability, we summarized a compelling presentation by WalkBoston, a Boston-based pedestrian advocacy group, entitled “Walking is Good Business,” at which Executive Director Wendy Landman made the case that “an investment in walking is a good business investment.” Specifically, her slideshow for this presentation (available online via the above link), demonstrates how pedestrian facilities serve both businesses and residents, and pay off in increased retail sales, healthier employees and higher real estate values. As noted by WalkBoston, “Businesses gain wherever walking conditions are improved.”

Tangible and exciting examples of new walkable communities that have helped to promote increased retail sales, healthier employees and higher real estate values are provided by the success of new large-scale, mixed-use redevelopment along Boston’s Fort Point Channel and in South Boston, which are connected to the nearby heart of downtown Boston by the ever popular HarborWalk, which is currently about 80% complete and anticipated to extend a total of 46.9-miles upon its full completion — stretching through East Boston, Charlestown, the North End, Downtown, South Boston and Dorchester.

Boston’s HarborWalk winds through the City's waterfront neighborhoods and downtown district. The HarborWalk connects the public to Boston Harbor via its harborside walkways and provides pedestrian-friendly linkages among the City’s urban green spaces, as well as an inviting alternative travel route (well, at least in the non-winter months) between residential apartments, retail shopping areas (such as Quincy Market), restaurants and downtown business offices.

Since the spring of 2011, visitors, residents and employees have enjoyed events and public art exhibits at Atlantic Wharf (previously known as Russia Wharf), located on the Fort Point Channel and the Atlantic Wharf HarborWalk.  The mixed-use redevelopment of the historic Russia Wharf by Boston Properties includes a 31-story, 750,000 Class A office tower, 30,000 square feet of retail and public spaces, 88 residential units, and an inviting waterfront plaza. Atlantic Wharf also boosts Boston’s first green, certified LEED Platinum skyscraper. Just across the Fort Point Channel, in South Boston, the ongoing redevelopment of the South Boston Seaport District, lead by projects including Seaport Square, Fan Pier and Pier 4, also features the development of new segments of and connections to the HarborWalk, and a diverse mix of office spaces, residential units, restaurants and retail spaces.

The development of new walkable communities at Atlantic Wharf and within South Boston’s Seaport District, respectively located in and adjacent to the heart of downtown Boston’s business district, showcase the strong potential for business success in urban mixed-use redevelopments that intentionally integrate, extend and interconnect with pedestrian-friendly environments, such as Boston’s HarborWalk. However, an interesting question to consider is whether other similar pedestrian-friendly redevelopment projects, which are not anchored by a close proximity to an active urban business district, will also succeed or if the success of the walkable communities highlighted here is inextricably linked to their immediate proximity to Boston’s urban core.

Related topics: Development, Retail