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How six cities reintroduced walkable development
Caroline Corona   on Thursday, June 14, 2018 at 12:00:00 am

Walkability was standard in urban planning until the mid-20th century, when the automobile and newly sprawling suburbs redirected development toward cars. Now, many developers and planners have changed their goals back to creating more walkable spaces that appeal to younger generations.

In places suffering from deindustrialization, auto-oriented development and urban renewal, walkable urban spaces can be recreated through large-scale catalytic development, according to a recent Brookings Institution report and panel. They define three features of catalytic development: patient equity—financial equity that has long-term expectations (five years or more); integrated development—combining diverse real estate uses into one area; and employment—attracting a substantial employer or supporting an existing one. Case studies from Detroit; Chattanooga, Tenn.; Cincinnati; Seattle; Cambridge, Mass.; and Phoenix show success from private, nonprofit, and university developers executing catalytic projects. Each city transformed an underperforming space into active community centers and businesses hubs.

Cincinnati’s disinvested Over-the-Rhine neighborhood experienced growth over the past decade using the three elements of catalytic development. The Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) was established by the city’s major employers to invest in neighborhood revitalization and used long-term equity to realize a historic preservation plan that attracted new businesses and residents. All real estate and revitalization roles were centralized under 3CDC, which allowed for a more integrated process that streamlined area’s development.

“Down and out does not mean there are no stakeholders there,” said real estate developer and panelist Ada Healey in reference to Seattle’s thriving South Lake Union neighborhood, which sprang out of underused industrial space. Other panelists emphasized inclusivity and transparency as part of the development process, even in seemingly abandoned places. Resident input and affordable housing must be part of the process. Because catalytic development often stems from crisis, it’s important to recognize past community trauma and build upon physical, cultural, and economic assets.

Access the full report (PDF) to learn more about catalytic development and the six case studies.

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