New construction is walkable, but with nowhere to walk
Home builders across the country are slow to take advantage of what real estate professionals in Charlotte and elsewhere have learned - that neighborhoods are popular when their residents don’t have to get in their cars as much.
According to 2013 American Housing Survey Data released recently by the Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, residents of newly built homes are more likely to bike or walk than residents of older homes. Yet in those new construction communities, amenities such as retail and restaurants are often less accessible by foot or bike than in older neighborhoods.
For example, the data showed that grocery stores are accessible to walkers and cyclists in 20 percent of households in new construction, compared to more than 26 percent of households overall. The same was true for banking, entertainment, health care and schools.
In Charlotte, however, the hottest neighborhoods are those in which homeowners can reach retail and restaurants by foot – or perhaps two wheels instead of four.
“Walkable has become trendy for people,” Lexi Longstreet of Charlotte’s Savvy & Co. Real Estate told Angie’s List in September. “I feel like when you look at what’s hot, where we’re seeing sales, that’s a common factor.”
Those hot neighborhoods include the NoDa arts district, a former mill community north of uptown that boasts new microbreweries, restaurants and – coming soon – access to Charlotte Blue Line light rail. Also sizzling is historic Plaza Midwood, with a new surge of restaurants and quirky shops, and Ballantyne’s Thornhill, which features a short walk to the large and popular Stonecrest shopping complex.
In Charlotte, as in many high-growth cities, the lack of new construction near amenities can be partially explained by the difficulty of finding land near established retail, entertainment and banking. Often, the retail eventually comes after developers see enough residential construction to make it worth their while.
Meanwhile, home builders are giving the walkers and bikers something to enjoy. In the Census/HUD survey, more households in newly constructed homes reported that their neighborhoods have bike lanes, sidewalks and lighting for those sidewalks.