LPI receives funding for Michigan Walkable Urban Places study

posted on May 13, 2015 4:34pm

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Photo courtesy of MSU Communications and Brand Strategy. (view larger image) Photo courtesy of MSU Communications and Brand Strategy.

Recent research has shown that the most walkable metropolitan areas in the country have higher GDPs per capita and higher proportions of college graduates in their population. The regionally significant walkable urban places in these metros (WalkUPs) are seeing strong real estate demand as evidenced by strong office absorption and rent premiums. These WalkUPs are models for future development patterns and economic growth.

The George Washington University Center for Real Estate & Urban Analysis and the MSU Land Policy Institute are partnering on the Michigan Walkable Urban Places (WalkUP) study to assess these trends in six major Michigan metros: Detroit, Flint, Saginaw-Midland-Bay City, Lansing-Jackson, Grand Rapids-Muskegon-Holland and Kalamazoo-Battle Creek. This project applies a conceptual methodology, developed with The Brookings Institution, which divides a metropolitan area’s land into four basic categories. The four categories are determined by answering two questions for each place: 1) Is it walkable or driveable?; and 2) Is it regionally significant or local-serving? An additional aim of the work is to identify places that are emerging, or potentially could emerge in the future, as regionally significant WalkUPs, based on zoning regulations, infrastructure investments, other policy initiatives and/or planned walkable developments.

This research has several purposes. The first is simply to gain a better understanding of what is in the walkable urban places, where they are, and how they are performing relative to each other and the region, both economically and in terms of social equity. This understanding is important for the successful management of these places. In addition, the study team has a hypothesis that the vast majority of future development in the region will occur on less than 10% of the metro area’s land, namely in WalkUPs, either existing or emerging/potential. If true, the identification of these places will be valuable to both public policy makers and the private sector. Finally, the study team hopes that this research provides a foundation for further research on the environmental and public health impacts of walkable urban places.

The project is being funded by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. Local matches are being secured in each of the six metros. For instance, the C.S. Mott Foundation has provided half of the funds for the WalkUP study in Flint. Other partners for this initiative include Smart Growth America, the Michigan Municipal League and LOCUS, a national network of real estate developers and investors who advocate for sustainable, walkable urban development in America’s metropolitan areas.

The findings of the WalkUP study will be released at the 2015 LOCUS Michigan Leadership Summit on Tuesday, June 23, 2015, at the One Woodward Building in Detroit. The full report of the Michigan WalkUP project will be available at the LPI website following the June event.

Photo courtesy of the MSU Communications and Brand Strategy.