There are numerous economic benefits to adopting planning strategies, land use practices, and regulations that foster mixed-use development. Studies show a clear connection between walkable environments and the economic viability of a town. Walking the Walk, a report by the CEO for Cities, states that the “resurgent interest in downtowns and in promoting mixed-use developments throughout metropolitan areas is, in part, driven by a recognition of the value of walkability.” Mixed-development that promotes a walkable built environment can help revitalize a downtown, increase private investment, lead to higher property values, promote tourism, and support the development of a good business climate.
Lower Infrastructure Costs
An APA brief on Zoning for Mixed Uses states that “traditional zoning ordinances can result in large-scale, single use, large-lot residential developments. These subdivisions often require costly and redundant municipal infrastructure to function while furthering dependence on non-renewable energy sources.”
Smart Growth America released a study in May 2013 that examined 17 cities and states and the effect that expanded smart growth development, which includes mixed-use development, would have on the area in comparison to conventional suburban growth. “On average, municipalities save about 38 percent on infrastructure costs like roads and sewers when serving compact development instead of large-lot subdivisions.” However, when looking at five different respondents, savings exceeded 20 percent in the long-run for many areas. Savings can be expected when there is a decreased need to design, construct, and maintain infrastructure for transportation systems, water and waste water, electric, telecommunications, and other utilities.
Increased Tax Revenue
A compelling argument in favor of mixed-use development is the increase in property tax revenue. As a community becomes denser, municipalities gain more tax revenue per acre than before development. The savings are huge: “Smart growth could increase Fresno’s tax revenue by 45 percent per acre.” According to a report prepared by Smart Growth America, tax revenue can increase up to 10 times, on average, with the introduction of mixed-use development to a community. The savings are even larger when developments are built outside of an urban setting. In Nashville-Davidson County, Tenn., Smart Growth may yield up to 42 times more revenue per acre in brownfield as conventional suburban growth in a greenfield area.
Operating Budget Costs Savings
While upfront infrastructure costs and increased tax revenue clearly demonstrate economic savings, municipalities continue to save after a development is completed. “Mixed-use projects also reduce ongoing costs to municipalities for services like police, fire and trash. Smart Growth America estimates the average savings at almost 10 percent.” While much of the savings comes from a reduced distance to travel, “Charlotte, North Carolina… found that fire department response times would be faster and fewer stations would be needed if the city had a better-connected street grid and closer-set homes.”
According to the Delaware State Housing Authority, compact growth uses 20 to 45 percent less land than overspill development. The statistic is consistent with the Delaware State Planning Office’s principle of conserving open space, honoring historic resources, and reducing the impact of the car.
Reducing sprawl and building communities where residents live and walk to work reduces car usage, positively impacting the environment. With the incorporation of mixed-use development and smart growth practices, sprawling development patterns could be reduced and quality of life may be enhanced. Undeveloped land, open space, and historic and natural resources could be preserved.
There is a growing body of evidence that the built environment—the man-made physical structures and the infrastructure of communities—is an important, but often ignored, social determinant of health. A neglect of community-design principles, lack of walkable infrastructure, and compartmentalized built environments with single uses can lead to less active lifestyles and a greater incidence of chronic obesity and related diseases.
The Delaware State Housing Authority provides research that shows over 50 percent of Americans would walk and bike more than driving if given the opportunity. Neo-traditional neighborhood design and smart-growth strategies such as mixed-use development are being implemented to mitigate the effects of sprawl, promote a sense of community, and encourage pedestrian-friendly design. In addition to providing public health benefits, walkable communities that are attractive, convenient, and may also contribute to a sense of place that reaps economic rewards.