My last post discussed the inherent tension between through and to movement. I argued that where there is increased pedestrian angst there is a place dividend that naturally seeks to be realised. This post takes a related theoretical understanding of streets and urbanism and applies it to Auckland’s city centre.
I have used Steve Mouzon’s work as inspiration. In this excellent blog post, The Speed Burden, he describes how designing cities for the purpose of moving cars quickly devours valuable real estate and is anti-antithetical to the functions of cities in the first place.
Busy streets, for almost all of human history, created the greatest real estate value because they delivered customers and clients to the businesses operating there. This in turn cultivated the highest tax revenues in town, both from higher property taxes and from elevated sales taxes. But you can’t set up shop on the side of an expressway. How can cities afford to spend so much to create thoroughfares with no adjoining property value?
Steve begins by diagramming an area in Florida to demonstrate how much land is wasted in road space.
His mapping exercise becomes more nuanced by considering whether streets provide “frontage” value. This is similar to the Link and Place framework. Real estate value is generated at the street frontage where the place of human exchange and transaction takes place. He maps them accordingly: Full Value, Compromised Value, and Worthless.
Taking the exercise one step further and using Auckland as a case study, I sampled current land values for properties and applied a relative score to each street segment to depict “street frontage value”. I removed the dollar values from the scores, but there is an actual monetary value difference between the colours. For example, RED is 6 times as valuable as DARK GREEN.
Most interesting to me is the location premium that still exists for property in the lower Queen Street valley. Who could have predicted that 100+ years from the heyday of downtown Auckland that the highest land values would still be centred on Queen St and its associated network of quirky lanes, arcades and back streets. What will it be like in the next 100 years? What ever happened to “place doesn’t matter”?
Clearly motorways defeat both spatial integration and thus urbanism as described in Patrick’s Severance City post. Everything adjacent to the motorway exists under an “edge” or barrier environment. This would also be revealed if I ran the Urban Network Analysis process since it is a simple geometric reality.
I like this analysis framework for two reasons- first, it helps to graphically represent how the streets and lanes are the actual conduit for exchange/transaction which provides (real estate) value in cities. When street frontages are compromised by conditions such as excessive traffic, real estate value declines and building forms start to take defensive positions (such as turning away or sitting back from the street edge) further degrading the actual potential of place and leading to a condition of entropy.
Second, it depicts the importance of urban structure which is why some uses (such as micro retail) can exist in some places but would be untenable in others. For example, the high value streets are all nested in a highly connected and central location. Patrick Kennedy from Walkable DFW further describes this phenomenon:
The greater the accessibility to a variety of people, places, and things, creates value, which instills demand, and thus density. Network integration is the release valve of demand, instilling opportunity and access to markets.
I originally started this post as mapping exercise to investigate whether turning slip lanes were erosive to city life. I got sidetracked and this analysis is probably jumping to the conclusion.
In the future I will overlay sliplanes, kerb cuts, multiple-lane one-way streets, surface parking lots and streets with excessive vehicle speeds to see if there are relationships. Also, if I can locate Jan Gehl’s street life data I will add it. I wonder if there will be any patterns?
Kent is an urban planner at Isthmus.