The Twin Cities benefits from strong properties within walkable areas, but could take a more regional approach to the concept of walkability, according to a new study.
The 2019 Foot Traffic Ahead report from the Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis (CRUEA) at the George Washington University School of Business, in partnership with Cushman & Wakefield, Smart Growth America/LOCUS and Yardi Matrix, has named Minneapolis-St. Paul the No. 14 metro for walkable urbanism. The report ranks the 30 largest metros in the United States, based on the percentage of office, retail and rental multifamily space in walkable urban places. The report found that in the 30 largest metros there are 761 “regionally significant” walkable urban places, or WalkUPs. Eleven of those WalkUPs are located in the Twin Cities metro area, and about 18 percent of all commercial real estate is located in those zones – 34 percent of all office space.
The main factor holding Twin Cities back is the growth of its walkability over the past few years. The metro ranked just 25th out of 30 cities in the Future Growth Momentum Index, a metric developed to rank the cities on their urban development. The index is based on the growth of multifamily and office space in WalkUP areas between 2010 and 2018, rent premiums in those areas and percentage of walkable areas in suburban locations. The low ranking indicates that walkability, while good for now, has room to grow in Minneapolis-St. Paul.
The Twin Cities didn’t fare as well as other cities in terms of absorption within walkable areas, but continues to perform well in rent growth. Of the 30 cities measured, the Twin Cities ranked fifth in rent premium change from 2010 to 2018 – ahead of gateway markets such as Chicago, Miami, Boston and San Francisco.
These two facts taken together suggest that the metro’s walkable areas are established and popular with both commercial tenants and renters, but adding more areas with such walkability could be a priority. The addition of new rail lines, such as the Southwest Light Rail Transit system, could help establish new WalkUP areas, particularly in the suburbs, where proper zoning is allowed.
One area where the Twin Cities shines, according to the study: Social Equity. Among the 30 cities measured, the Twin Cities ranked fourth in equity within WalkUP areas. This was based on three main factors: cost of housing, cost of transportation, and percentage of housing within a WalkUP area that is designated for rent. The Twin Cities was among the most affordable housing metros in the study, and 76 percent of housing in WalkUP areas is for renters. Transportation cost, on the other hand, still comes in above average.
For a more detailed understanding of walkability in the Twin Cities and the other top 30 U.S. cities, download the report here.