DC emerging as walkability model

After World War II, millions of Americans got their first cars and moved to brand new homes in the suburbs. This lifestyle of automobile-centered, town-based communities dominated much of the American landscape for many decades. Now, however, many urban planners and real estate developers believe that the future lies in a different direction - walkability. A swelling push is emerging to redesign cities to incorporate walkable infrastructure. People who buy one of the houses for sale in Washington, DC, will have a front-row seat for this process, as the Capitol is considered by many to be ideal model for this movement.

According to Chris Leinberger, a real estate developer and George Washington University professor, the District is fast becoming a standard-bearer for the modern, pedestrian-oriented city. Leinberger recently released a report examining 43 "regionally significant" neighborhoods in the metro that meet certain walkability standards.

Unsurprisingly, the prevalence of these locations has increased significantly in the last several years, according to The Washington Post. What is perhaps more compelling, however, is how attractive these locations - which include everything from trendy neighborhoods like Adams Morgan to some of the more far-flung suburbs - have become to residents.

The walkable locations Leinberger identifies have seen 42 percent of new apartment development since 2009, up from 19 percent between 2000 and 2008. Offices, too, are popping up in these spots at an alarming rate - 59 percent of new offices built in DC since 2009 were in these locations, another considerable jump.

What does this say about the desirability of a walkable city?
According to Leinberger, these dramatic increases demonstrate that residential and commercial builders are staying close to the invisible hand that feeds them. Locations that attract many tenants can fetch higher rents, meaning that developers are innately drawn to them.

"That's the market telling you, dramatically, build more of this stuff," he told the news source. "There's pent-up demand for walkable urban."

What's so attractive about a pedestrian-based DC?
For years, suburbs have attracted millions of residents for their ample space, good schools and sense of privacy. So why is this shifting?

Leinberger points to many reasons, but most focus on evolving lifestyle choices, especially among younger generations. The desire to live closer to amenities like entertainment and dining options, as well as the rising cost of gas, has convinced many city-dwellers that a more walkable, less car-driven life is the best option.

It is unclear how this will play out across the country, but it does seem apparent that for people who want to live a more walkable urban life, buying real estate in Washington, DC, may be their best bet.