by Jennifer Sierra
There are many reasons that walkable communities are becoming more desirable places to live and work. Throughout the world, walkable communities are hosts to the healthiest and happiest people. There is a sense of community when one walks outside down the street a few blocks and runs into their neighbor or someone they know. There are reduced costs and emissions associated with not having and or driving a car. There is a direct positive impact on one’s health in walkable communities if the residents get out and take advantage of the walkable trails and amenities surrounding them. Obesity rates decline, depression declines, heart health positively increases and other associated diseases decline like diabetes and high blood pressure.
In a recent interview with Bellevue Main Street Manger Jody Robinson, she told us that Bellevue is doing what is can to attract the types of people that want to live in walkable communities. “As people are choosing communities to live in, walkable communities are the number one thing people list when searching for property.” Robinson told us. “We are seeing this trend across all demographics. We have the bones of great walkability in our community, where there is an emphasis of people interacting with one another from their front porches and front yards.” Many people that are in the search for new homes in new neighborhoods use WalkScore.com to rate neighborhoods on their walkability.
Form-based codes, which Bellevue has adopted, address the relationship between building facades and the public areas, the form and mass of a building and how they relate to each other and the scale and types of streets. This approach is different to conventional zoning which tends to look at just the distinction of land uses. Form-based codes try to achieve a cohesive community in urbanism. Traditional zoning regulations look at things like parking ratios, setbacks and traffic. While these things are good to look at when creating a zoning plan, they should not be a one-size fits all structure for all communities since not all communities are the same. For many cities, including Dayton, Kentucky traditional zoning has been detrimental to attempts for redevelopment. Dayton City Administrator, Michael Giffen is trying to make changes to those zoning issues that hold them back.
Form-based codes do a great job of integrating people with their surrounding buildings and environment. “While it embraces cars, it is giving a direct nod to the pedestrian and what the experience is for the pedestrian. Open parking lots are screened from view because parking lots don’t make for a good pedestrian experience,” Robinson added. As an avid walker herself, Jody said that she doesn’t like walking on streets that don’t have a parking lane. “They give me a sense of being protected from moving traffic.” Jody has been without a car for about 4 years. She uses Red Bike, Tank and Southbank buses and her feet as her transportation.
Both Dayton and Bellevue are set up with alternative transportation. Bellevue with the Southbank Shuttle and Red Bike and Dayton with their new Riverwalk along the Ohio River and Manhattan Harbor Drive and being on bus and bike routes. Bellevue is adding another Red Bike station this spring at Ward and Fairfield. With the tiny house movement happening, more and more people are downsizing and moving to condos. Bellevue has a couple of great condo developments right on the river. Dayton will soon have the same type of condo option on the river.
Speaking with Dayton, Kentucky’s City Administrator Michael Giffen, “Having safe and walkable avenues for pedestrians to utilize is the leverage river cities like Dayton and Bellevue must generate in order to grow and thrive in the current market and beyond. We have plans to widen our sidewalks in our business district, add better lighting and connect pedestrians with important ambler highways such as the Riverfront Commons Trial and Sixth and Fairfield Avenues. These nodes will connect our citizens’ to other major pedestrian access points in the region allowing them to enjoy a meal at their favorite restaurant or catch a show or a ballgame. Likewise, it will allow Dayton to attract new visitors to our community to enjoy our amenities. Dayton’s Economic Development Program was not developed by accident. It is an integral part in tying many ideas and trends together at the right time.”
Jody Robinson ended our conversation with a great statement, “the greenest building is one that already exists.”