Small business is the primary engine for economic growth in the United States. Many small businesses, including restaurants, bars and retail, rely heavily on foot traffic for survival. Mixed-use, walkable communities – in urban, suburban, and rural areas – provide the steady stream of potential customers to make these businesses viable.
A recent study found that a community’s walkability score directly impacts the value of office and retail properties. Walkability is the degree to which an area encourages walking for recreational or functional purposes. Properties with a high walkability score were worth 29% – 40% more than properties with low walkability scores. When people and businesses are closer together, communities have more competitive advantages.
Increased foot traffic isn’t just an urban phenomenon. The town of Mountain Brook, Alabama is an affluent suburb outside of Birmingham. Although the city was designed to replicate a series of small villages surrounded by rural-feeling neighborhoods, its winding roads without sidewalks became less appealing over time. To restore the neighborhoods’ walkability and create more welcoming public spaces in the commercial villages, the city laid out a plan for 44 miles of new sidewalk. According to the Environmental Law Institute, within a year of adoption of the sidewalk master plan, the first 15 miles of new sidewalks and other streetscape improvements resulted in a 25% increase in sales in the villages.