A Texas native, Rogers put a premium on the District’s walkable neighborhoods. “In Texas, you drive everywhere. . . . People would ask me, ‘How’s living in the big city?’ It seems counterintuitive, but it actually feels like we live in a small town. Being able to walk helps create a neighborhood feel.”
“Walkable” is a feature sparking sales and energizing future development and redevelopment, according to a recent report by a George Washington University professor that calls the Washington area a national model for compact urban areas where residents can live and work without cars.
“The strongest housing market is in walkable urban areas,” says Christopher B. Leinberger, author of the report, “DC: The WalkUP Wake-Up Call.” “That’s where the demand is.”
The popularity of walkable neighborhoods is also reflected in real estate listings, according to local experts. One major residential real estate service, Zillow, even routinely includes “walk scores” in its listings. And many local real estate agents are quick to point out what is within walking distance of a property.
“We always talk about proximity to Metro,” says Lindsay Reishman, principal broker of Dupont Circle-based Lindsay Reishman Real Estate, noting that walkable neighborhoods are appealing to all demographics, from empty-nesters to young professionals.
Regionally significant walkable urban areas — referred to in the report as “WalkUPs” — have cultural amenities such as museums and libraries, offices, shopping, restaurants and different types of housing. There are 43 such neighborhoods in the Washington area, spanning seven counties.
While they share characteristics, they don’t all look the same. Some, such as Capitol Hill and Capitol Riverfront, are near downtown Washington. There is urban commercial — Van Ness, Georgetown and Adams Morgan are examples. Others are in suburban town centers such as Bethesda, Clarendon and Frederick, or in a strip commercial redevelopment, such as Bailey’s Crossroads and Friendship Heights.
Only 42 percent of the WalkUPs are in the District. The rest are in the suburbs, according to the report. National Harbor, New Carrollton, Virginia Square and Rosslyn are among the neighborhoods that make the list. The growth in the suburbs is pretty dramatic, given that there were only two walkable areas there in 1990.
“There’s no reason to add a square mile of development,” says Leinberger, who is also a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and president of Locus, a coalition of real estate developers and investors and a project of Smart Growth America. “Where there is pent-up demand is in these [walkable, urban] areas.”
Of course, “walkable urban isn’t for everyone,” he says. “The good news for those who want to buy in the drivable suburbs is that houses are quite cheap. . . . In the fringe suburbs of Washington, prices in some neighborhoods have dropped 50 and 60 percent.”