Thursday, October 9, 2014

Washingtonians Flock to Transit Hubs to Live, Work & Play

One of the leading real estate services firms, Cushman & Wakefield, released a report on development patterns in the DC area, Urban Development: Faster Greener Commutes Key to Sustained City Growth. The report stresses the popularity of transit-oriented developments both within cities and in some suburban areas like Tysons.

While Fairfax County has placed an emphasis encouraging future growth in transit-oriented developments, the question could be asked whether Fairfax County is doing enough to ensure that these new developments are walkable and bikeable. The Mosaic District is touted as an example of good mixed-use development near transit, but walking and biking conditions in the Gallows Road/Lee Hwy area are dangerous and unfriendly, with wide streets, fast traffic, and almost no dedicated space for cyclists.

From the Cushman & Wakefield press release (emphasis added):
WASHINGTON, October 7, 2014 – Cushman & Wakefield today released a special research study detailing Washington, D.C.’s expanding transit system and development plans for keeping pace with the rapid population increase since 2000. The “Urban Development: Faster Greener Commutes Key to Sustained City Growth” report explores the trends, consequences and solutions of hyper-urbanization in 10 major North American cities: Washington D.C., Mexico City, Manhattan, Los Angeles, Chicago, Toronto, Miami, Atlanta, Boston and San Francisco.

The report features industry-leading insights and market analysis, animated GIFs is available to download at the following link:

Key findings of this report for Washington D.C. include:
  • Population growth is not confined to the city center although population in the District proper is at its highest level in four decades.
  • Projects in the downtown core, or along transit hubs in the suburbs, which offer the live/work/play lifestyle, are attracting businesses and residents alike.
  • DC ranks first in the U.S. among all urban areas in terms of wasted time commuting: a total of 67 hours per year, per commuter.
  • Commuters in the District of Columbia are second only to New York City in terms of walking, biking or using public transport—D.C. government aims for 75% of all commutes to be within these modes, shrinking auto use among commuters from 42% to 25% by 2032, a goal no major city has yet attained.
  • Long-term plan for Tysons calls for 75% of new development within a half mile of a Metro station.
  • Montgomery County has a potential 13 million square feet of commercial space and 14,000 residential units within three quarters of a mile of the Red Line’s White Flint Metro stop.
Most notable among the report’s conclusions is the premium placed on sustainable, transit-oriented development in downtown cities and the dramatic surge in suburban communities now fully-embracing the live-work-play model as a result of geographical nuances.

Paula Munger, Cushman & Wakefield’s Washington-based Research Director, spearheaded the report and notes that “Public Private Partnerships are most critical to the successful revival of downtown cities—hip eateries, thriving arts districts, and fully occupied offices and residences depend on sustainable, quality transit—developers and governments must work together to make this happen.”

In April 2013, Maryland and Virginia were among 31 other states to pass legislation to enable public/private partnerships to be established for transportation projects. Virginia was an early leader in these partnerships and has evolved into a national role model.

Real estate occupiers and investors are seeking accessible locations close to where the millennial generation – expected to make up more than half of the global workforce by 2020 – live, thus driving the construction of the Transit Oriented Developments (TODs).

In the Washington region, the report highlights four key mixed-use developments, which are all located very close to Metro stations: CityCenterDC, The Yards in Southeast, Capitol Crossing and the Wharf.

“Transit oriented development (TOD) is the most substantial development trend of the early 21st century,” said Christopher B. Leinberger, the Charles Bendit Distinguished Scholar and Research Professor of Urban Real Estate, Chair of the Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis at the George Washington University School of Business and President, of LOCUS: Responsible Real Estate Developers and Investors.

“As Cushman & Wakefield points out in its Urban Development research report, this trend is a majority and in some cases the vast majority of new commercial development, as well as residential development, in many Metro areas today,” said Leinberger.

The Sustainable D.C. Plan lays out a strategy to have 75% of all D.C. commutes taking transit, biking or walking by 2032. “Re-orienting our transportation spending toward rail and bus transit, biking and walking are the most important infrastructure investments North American metropolitan areas can make,” said Leinberger.

“As the C&W research shows, this new walkable urban development is occurring in both our central cities and urbanizing suburbs. Following the research findings will lead to rental and cap rate premiums that will not be ignored by investors and developers,” concluded Leinberger.

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