Taking Steps Toward Walkability

Welcome back to our weekly “Wednesday Workshop” where we breakdown the key characteristics of communities with natural charm. Last week, we delved into conservation and how it’s ingrained in Groveland’s values and vision. In this week’s post we focus on another key objective of Groveland: walkability.

Whether it’s a Town, Village, or Hamlet, walkability will be an essential aspect of all new communities developed in Groveland. Not only is walking the most natural expression of transportation, but it also has a significant impact on our health, our environment, and our local economy. In fact, WalkScore.com — an online resource that scores how walkable a location is — cites several studies that show a high correlation between walkability and property values. Since walkability has become one of most sought after characteristics when buying or renting real estate, many listings now include a community’s Walk Score, with 1 being the lowest and 100 being the highest.

Here is how the City of Groveland is taking big steps toward making our communities more walkable through our new Community Development Code.

Step 1 - Each new community will be planned around a five minute walking range or, as we call it a “walk shed”. This means all residential lots are to be an easy five minute walk away from their community’s mixed use core. This makes it so that resident’s don’t have to drive every trip to meet their basic daily needs. Schools, assemblies, and parks will also be planned within the walk shed for this same reason.

Step 2 - Within each walk shed, streets will be interconnected by using smaller blocks to increase connectivity. This is important because it provides several routes to get from point A to B. We’re also introducing mid-block pedestrian pathways that further increase safe and comfortable routes for walking.

Step 3 - Each new street will achieve the ideal building height to street width ratio. This means that if a street (from edge of building to edge of building) is 70 foot wide, then the buildings on both sides will be about 35 feet in height. This ratio is important because it creates a sense of enclosure that frames the street as a vibrant public space that attracts people. This is also a big reason that retail is shifting away from shopping malls and moving into walkable downtown settings.

Step 4 - Our new code also includes an illustrated glossary of thoroughfare types with specific design standards for main streets, residential streets, and alleys. These standards include wider sidewalks, narrower vehicular lanes, on-street parking, decorative street lights, and canopy trees for shade. All of these are necessary elements to create safer, more comfortable, and more complete streets that encourage walking.

Step 5 - For our final step, our new transect zoning standards will require buildings on main streets to be built closer to wide sidewalks and include awnings, large store-front windows and entrances, sidewalk cafes, and pedestrian scale signs. This creates an engaging, welcoming  place for people rather than vehicles. On our residential streets, buildings are to be setback a bit more to make way for landscaped yards and large front porches which encourage neighborly interactions. In both settings, vehicle parking will be either on-street or behind the buildings since we are encouraging walkability and safety.

Check out the image gallery for draft code standards and examples of walkability, and as always, be on the lookout for a new post every Wednesday morning. Stay natural, and stay charming.

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