Walkability appeal growing as Carlton apartment project Bravo promotes high ‘walk score’

Walkability appeal growing as Carlton apartment project Bravo promotes high ‘walk score’
Walkability appeal growing as Carlton apartment project Bravo promotes high ‘walk score’

Being within walking distance of trains, buses, shops, schools and restaurants is being promoted as a key feature of new inner-city residential development Bravo in Melbourne at the same time as real estate group Harcourts has begun including walkability maps with all its residential listings. 

Bravo, a 118-apartment project to be built over 11 levels by Vaughan Construction, achieved a “walk score” of 97 out of 100 based on its location at 103 Pelham Street in Carlton on the northern edge of the Melbourne CBD. 

Bravo achieved its “walker’s paradise” rating on Walk Score, a US-based website that ranks properties and suburbs from zero (car-dependent) to 100 (walker's paradise) based on their walking distances from a diverse set of nearby amenities. 

“Certain categories are weighted more heavily than others to reflect destinations associated with more walking trips. In addition, road connectivity metrics such as intersection density and average block length are factored into the score,” explains Walk Score. 

It doesn’t include the suburb's distance from the city centre in its overall score, only the local neighbourhood. 

Rankings are compiled from a variety of data sources such as Open Street Map, local business listings, and public data sources such as parks and schools. 

The default Australian categories are restaurants, coffee shops, grocery stores, shopping centres, schools, parks, bookstores, pubs, entertainment venues, banks, post offices, hospitals, fitness centres, bike shops and childcare facilities. 

Home buyers can also add their own categories, for example pharmacies, optometrists and golf courses. 

Michael McNamara from valuation firm Herron Todd White say a walkable address could potentially attract a 20% premium to price, and he expects walk scores to be used more in the future.

He says walkability has become a much greater factor because NSW, Queensland and Victorian state governments are not investing in public infrastructure such as new high-speed train lines.

This means that people placing a premium around being close to public transport and to villages where they can go out for a meal or coffee.

“All of our cities are being clogged with excessive traffic… A trip from the northern beaches to the Sydney CBD can take over an hour, and that’s considered a normal commute,” he tells Property Observer.

McNamara says walk scores will have particurlar value to “villages” such the inner west of Sydney, Melbourne’s inner-urban areas and places like Paddington in Brisbane. 

He expects walk scores will be particularly appealing to those marketing projects off the plan to mainland Chinese buyers who won’t know much about the surrounding suburbs. 

But, he says, they do have their limitations. 

“They don’t provide an understanding of the brand of the suburb. 

“Carlton may have a walk score of 97, but it does not tell you that Lygon Street is just up the road or that is has charming period homes. 

“The walk score does not give you the flavour, nor does it tell you that Carlton was once a working-class suburb that has become gentrified.” 

To use the site home buyers simply type in the address of the property they are interest in and the website compiles the ranking and walking distance from amenities and services.

The sought-after inner-city Melbourne suburbs of Prahran and South Yarra have a perfect score of 100, with schools, shops, grocery stories and cafes all within 200 metres.

Typing in 103 Pelham Street, Carlton into Walk Score shows that the proposed Bravo development is a short walk from numerous restaurants and coffee shops; 230 metres from the Forza Italia shopping centre; 330 metres from Melbourne Business School; 420 metres from Deakin University; within half a kilometre of numerous banks and close to parks, bookstores, pubs and hotels.

Australian addresses do not show distances to public transport connections (this is due to a data issue with local public transport providers) though the location of nearby tram and train stations can be clearly seen on the map.

Bravo’s marketing material explains that it is “only a two-minute walk to 10 different tram routes and only a 12-minute walk to Parliament Station”.

“Bravo’s vicinity to the restaurants, cafes and boutiques of Lygon Street creates an opportunity for residents to live effortlessly and luxuriously,” says Ann Lau, associate director at Hayball, the architecture and design firm behind the project.

“Carlton has a strong identity and community spirit therefore it was important to reflect this by democratising the views with communal rooftop gardens. Vegetable patches and barbecues provide an extension of private outdoor space, as well as encouraging sustainable choices and a community-focused lifestyle,” she says.

The Walk Score system is also being used by real estate group Harcourts Australia, which is incorporating Walk Score Neighbourhood Maps with all its listings.

 

The maps don’t provide a Walk Score ranking but show distances to the nearest restaurants, coffee shops, grocery stores, shopping centres and schools.

 

The mapping program also has a feature called “Where do you commute?”, which allows you to type in any address find out the recommended route, distance, approximate driving and walking time from that property.

 

The mapping function has been incorporated into all public, office and sales consultant websites in Australia, New Zealand and the USA.

Gregg Toyama, head of eBusiness for Harcourts International, says buyers are always craving more localized information surrounding a property listing.

“How many times have you heard someone say, ‘How far away is the local school’ when discussing a property?

“Now buyers can see that information along with a range of other points of interest, such as transport hubs, doctors, restaurants and much more all within a property listing,” he says.

According to Ben Rossiter from Victoria Walks, a walking-for-transport health promotion charity, Walk Scores are being used more often in medium-density real estate suburbs.

"It gives people a really good idea of what is close by. The most highly walkable communities have a variety of services and facilities relevant to everyday life, all within walking distance — things like schools, shops, parks, cafes and movie theatres," Rossiter told Fairfax Media last year.

"Walking is becoming increasingly important to people when they're deciding where they want to live. The choice might be more about having high walkability than it is about having a bigger backyard."

Walk Score generates more than 6 million scores each day.

It is a division of Seattle software company Front Seat and launched in July 2007.

Front Seat was founded by Mike Mathieu, former general manager of msn.com, the Microsoft search engine.

 

 

Larry Schlesinger

Larry Schlesinger

Larry Schlesinger was a property writer at Property Observer

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