When walkable urbanism expert Christopher Leinberger scanned the landscape of Northeast Ohio during a visit here two years ago, he found it lacking. Given its size, Greater Cleveland should have two or three times more walkable, urban places to meet growing demand, he said.
Perhaps Leinberger's back-of-the-envelope assessment of Cleveland could use the full treatment that he just delivered for Boston, where he calculated that “WalkUps” outperform drivable sub-urban places by 37% in economic value creation.
“The economic performance metric measures both the real estate valuations and the tax assessment that drives most local government tax revenues,” he explains.
Leinberger defines a WalkUp as having:
- higher density;
- multiple real estate products (housing, office, retail, etc.) close to one another;
- multiple modes of transportation that get people and goods to the place; and
- a walkable public realm.
As a rule of thumb, these places would have a WalkScore of greater than 70. A WalkUp also has 100 intersections and 1.4 million sq. ft. of office plus 340,000 sq. ft. of retail per square mile.
Despite the myth, they could be built in cities or suburbs, although Leinberger considers low rents found in drivable Edge Cities, like those along I-271 or I-480 in Greater Cleveland, a negative factor.
In Boston and older cities, WalkUps generally fit into one of five categories—Downtown, Downtown Adjacent, Urban Commercial, Urban University, and Regional Urban Center. Examples include downtown-adjacent areas that, historically, were dense like the Back Bay. Another case is a WalkUp Innovation District; a university-anchored tech/maker area that attracts the well-educated, higher-wage earner (populations that prefer walkable places).
The report also seeks out places that, with a slightly denser street grid and a few more developments, could be the next WalkUps. In Boston’s case, they are older suburban town centers or close-by industrial areas that are “already walkable to some extent.”
Rent prices and home sales figures broaden the picture from just density. WalkUps also look at transit access as a measure of the affordability of a place (if a place is well-connected to jobs and other necessities, it lowers the need to drive and the associated costs of car ownership).
The “next wave” or best candidates for Walkable Urban Places, have these three leading characteristics:
- Close to transit (within a 1/2-mile of a rail station)
- Have decent density (8 housing units per acre)
- A walkable street grid (100 intersections/sq. mile)
Places also get bonus points if they are part of a plan for dense development, such as a Priority Development Area or Mixed Use zoning overlay.
Given the physical characteristics, and if Leinberger is correct that—given the pent up demand for WalkUps from Millennials and Gen X—Cleveland has a paucity of options right now. We see the long-term potential for these seven places to build the WalkUps missing from Greater Cleveland.
WalkUp sites in Greater Cleveland: Existing
- Public Square—The center of Cleveland has it all—with the exception, perhaps, of housing density. There are just too many surface parking lots surrounding the hub of the city’s rail system. The value add of WalkUps and the $30 million beautification project at Public Square make this a choice location. (W. 3rd and Superior WalkScore: 93)
- University Circle—The (up)town around the gown wants to reclaim its roots as a walkable, urban place. The HealthLine and Uptown got the ball rolling. What happens next will be just as important. How the mixed-use, “Intesa” development at Mayfield and E. 115th Street, for example, orients itself and encourages the use of a new $17 million Red Line station at Mayfield. With the UCI Transportation Demand Management study promising bike and pedestrian friendly streets; the key will be making adjacent land uses adhere to WalkUp principles. (E. 115th and Euclid WalkScore: 84)
- W. 25th and Lorain—The Market District is teed up and ready to go. It has all the elements for a successful Urban Commercial WalkUp: high-priced rents, loads of redevelopment interest, the right level of density, walkable access to rail and the city’s beloved West Side Market as an anchor. Recognizing the higher market capitalization of walkable, urban places should make holding firm to a higher standard in the W. 25th Street scape project easier. In return, a complete street, with strong consideration for a dedicated bus lane, will help build the case to repair the edges of the district, like finding the courage to tear down the oddball sub-urban shopping center next to the Rapid station for an “Urban Commercial” WalkUp. (WalkScore: 80.5)
WalkUp sites in NEO: Potential
- The Campus District—The area has steadily increased density with hundreds of new housing units and retail near Cleveland State University. With plans to: a.) cap the Innerbelt trench b.) add bike lanes to E. 22nd and c.) densify the area around a Red Line Rapid station at E. 34th Street the creation of developable land fronting a multi-modal transportation network (with links to the lakefront) make this the sleeper WalkUp to watch. (WalkScore: 69)
- Opportunity Corridor—The new road will slice through an area that meets Leinberger’s definition of a next wave Industrial WalkUp. Many of the former industrial sites are clustered around the four train stations in the corridor (two at E. 79th Street plus the E. 55th and E. 105th Street Rapid Stations). Some questions need to be worked out: Will the design of Opportunity Corridor enhance or discourage connectivity and walkability? Do the local leaders working on Opportunity Corridor have plans to introduce some more “community” feel into the design? This doesn’t have to be your grandfather’s industrial park, after all. (Buckeye and MLK WalkScore: 67)
- Shaker Heights—Built around rail, Shaker is experiencing something of a transit-oriented development renaissance with the rebuilding of its Blue Line Rapid Station at Van Aken-Lee Road and the Warrensville-Chagrin TOD lead by Forest City affiliate RMS. Shaker is well positioned to capture full value as a Regional Urban Center WalkUp building from a strong base (the library and decent shopping options) by adding density. There are parallels to the case study in Boston where home prices in mixed income WalkUps, like you see along the Blue Line, rose by 10% in the last three years. (Van Aken-Lee WalkScore: 63)
- (Tie) Windermere, W. 65th and W. 117th streets—Here are three places with a lot of potential. Red Line stations surrounded by challenging infrastructure acting as a barrier to dense, walkable urban places. With some reimagining, they could be less isolated and better serve the neighborhoods which have higher than average walk scores and large populations living car free. They get extra points for being included in The Red Line Extension plans and the Cleveland EcoVillage (WalkScores: 66, 65, and 75)