After four or five years of relentless pessimism and negativity, the real estate market in the Tampa Bay area has finally been getting some good news lately. Sales are picking up, inventory is falling – and even though prices are still flat, at least the free fall is over.
I’ve heard people speculating that this may be the first sign of the long-awaited turnaround in the real estate market. But I’m not so sure. I worry that national trends in real estate may be working against a healthy, sustainable real estate recovery in Florida.
As I’ve said before, Florida was designed for cars, not for people. It’s very difficult and expensive to retro-fit car-centric cities to accommodate a more pedestrian-based lifestyle:
In all, the Washington [DC] region now leads the nation with 43 distinct neighborhoods Leinberger has identified as “regionally significant walkable urban places” (in other words, those walkable places that also help power the metro economy as jobs centers). A mere .9 percent of the land in the entire Washington region is currently devoted to such places. But 34 percent of the region’s jobs are located there. And these places, Leinberger argues, represent the future of cities everywhere – for the coming wave of development in residential construction, in office space, in entertainment and in retail …
“This is about the urbanization of the suburbs,” he says.
Tampa Bay was one of the hardest-hit metro areas by the real estate collapse. We are just now starting to show some signs of recovery. Will it last?
Not if walkable urbanism is more than a passing fad. Clearly, this area is not designed to be friendly for pedestrians – hell, our *cities* aren’t even designed to accommodate walking, let alone our suburbs, and retrofitting either to accommodate walkability promises to be a long and expensive undertaking. Our examples of New Urbanism are often greenfield developments, making them isolated and car-dependent – in other words, just suburbs with a different aesthetic.
What do you think? Is walkable urbanism the wave of the future? Will Florida’s cities be able to adapt to the changing tastes of home buyers?