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A Walkable City: Charlotte Ranks No. 10 for Walkable Urbanism

7/16/2019

Charlotte a walkable city? Several decades ago that comment would seem unfathomable, but Charlotte’s City Council has taken significant strides in promoting interconnectivity by investing in an affordable transit system.

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With the recent completion of the 18.9-mile LYNX Blue Line light rail and with over $6.0 billion of planned projects expected to occur by 2030, Charlotte is becoming a top walkable metropolis.

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 Charlotte the No. 10 city 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. Nine of those WalkUPs are located in the Charlotte metro area.

Charlotte ranks in the “Upper-Middle Walkable Urbanism” group alongside seven other rapidly changing markets. The eight metro areas in this second level cover two broad categories: those that concentrate the vast majority of walkable urban development in the center cities (Pittsburgh, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Philadelphia) and those that are beginning to expand into urbanizing suburbs (Seattle, Atlanta and Portland). One-fourth of Charlotte’s total office, retail and rental multifamily space is in the nine WalksUPs around the metro area. These WalkUPs account for a smaller share of retail and multifamily inventory, but contain a whopping 43% of the office square footage, which is the same proportion as three gateway markets: Boston, Chicago and San Francisco.

Office and multifamily absorption was disproportionally strong in Charlotte’s most walkable areas. Between 2010 and 2018, 42% of Charlotte’s office and multifamily absorption occurred in its seven WalkUPs. Office, retail and multifamily properties located in Charlotte’s WalkUPs have a 77% rent premium, which is the sixth highest of the top 30 U.S. cities. This rent premium has grown 16% since 2010 and is higher than several gateway markets (including Chicago and San Francisco) as well as comparable Southeastern cities (such as Atlanta, Tampa and Orlando).

Charlotte’s walkable urban market share has increased both on an absolute and relative basis since 2010, according to the reports’ Market Share Shift Index (MSSI). With a MSSI of 1.68, Charlotte was 28th in terms of walkable urban market share growth. The MSSI measures the walkable urban market share increase or decrease of net absorption of real estate for a given time period, compared to market share at the beginning of that time period (the base year). For this analysis, CRUEA measured market share increase from 2010 through 2018 against the base year 2010 occupancy (January 1, 2010), near the start of the current real estate cycle.

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