Miami on track to become among nation’s most walkable cities

by Andrew Morrell

The Miami metro area’s expansion in recent years is almost unparalleled among U.S. cities. Unfortunately, it’s also come with consequences like increased suburban sprawl and debilitating traffic jams.

While Miami is currently considered one of the least-walkable American cities, a recent report from the George Washington University School of Business and Smart Growth America ranks the city No. 6 on a list of the metros with the most potential to increase walkability. That means property owners in Miami are already seeing the benefits of high walkability in neighborhoods that have already been developed around this principle, but those benefits could be expanded if the city commits to enhancing urban development. 

“This report indicates that the highest-ranked walkable urban metros are models for the future development patterns of many U.S. metros,” according to a summary of the study. “Meeting this pent-up demand for new [walkable neighborhoods] would create a new economic foundation for the U.S. economy, one far more resilient than one predicated on suburban growth.”

Stretches of downtown Miami have become vastly more walkable in the last decade as developers have focused on adding housing, office and retail space in the urban core of the city. But the Foot Traffic Ahead report highlights growth in Miami’s suburban town centers amid increased demand for walkability. In fact, around 44 percent of Miami’s walkable urban space is in its suburbs, according to the report.

“Miami’s high percentage of urbanizing suburbs is, like Los Angeles, due to the growth of suburban town centers, which were established over a hundred years ago by the rail transit that then dominated the metro area, and which are being re-established on the same right of ways today, promoting redevelopment of these original TOD [transit oriented development] towns (Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, among others),” the report explained.

This has helped Miami-area property owners see some of the highest rent premiums in the nation for office, retail and multifamily units in walkable areas. That trend in itself has helped attract new residents and even businesses from other walkable cities across the world.

With this premium in mind, Miami developers have huge incentives to build new walkable communities. That helps explain why the report ranked Miami among the top 10 U.S. cities with a high potential for walkable urban development. 

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