Livable communities are good for both people and business and are places that Americans increasingly want to live, work, and play. This definition sounds like Burlington, but then why isn’t our community growing in population?
The BBA has recently partnered with AARP to address this issue and look at what makes a community livable through national studies. While the AARP study focuses mainly on the retiree community, livability is a high-level performance measure of neighborhood design factors that are critical to the quality of life for people of all ages.
The boomer and millennial generations are the two largest generations in our nation’s history, together totaling to 150 million people, close to half of the nations population. Despite the age gap, these two generations share the same preferences on critical livability community issues including compactness, integration of land use, housing diversity, and transportation options. With Burlington’s aging population and college demographic, addressing these preferences are critical to Burlington’s economic vitality.
The AARP study shows that 62% of millennials and 49% of boomers want to live near shops, restaurants, and entertainment. For the same reasons, Burlington residents want to live close to downtown, but with high construction costs and tough zoning regulations developing in Downtown Burlington has become increasingly difficult. Creating a more compact community will help fulfill this want, while also reducing the expense of constructing and maintaining roads, sewers, and other public works.
Developers and infrastructure aren’t the only elements that will reap benefits of a more compact community. Compactness also increases property values in the community, generates more revenue for local businesses, enhances the walkability of a community and creates a stronger sense of place.
Burlington residents already love the city for many reasons, but we need to convince others of why this is a great community to live, work, and play.
Communities with integrated live, work, and play opportunities create a strong market demand because being close to shops, restaurants, and entertainment helps enhance a business’ competitive position. One solution to helping Burlington become a more integrated community is the Burlington Town Center redevelopment project. The proposal of having both housing and office space above the mall will help bring both businesses and residents right to the city center. This will not only attract workers, but also pull business back into downtown Burlington.
The housing market is currently a critical issue in Burlington with a vacancy rate of 1-2%. Many people choose to commute to Burlington to work due to high rents and lack of availability. A diverse housing stock will help ensure that workers can find housing near their jobs. By increasing the density of housing in an area it can simultaneously raise property value while decreasing housing costs.
Redstone has done an excellent job of trying to address the housing crisis by building multiple market-rate units in downtown Burlington. Their new units will help bring both more residents, but a larger demographic to Burlington. Burlington has an aging community and population spikes among any single age group can cause expensive surges in schools, social service systems, and can artificially inflate or deflate property values. Giving Burlington a more diverse housing stock will help ensure that residents of all ages are continuously present in the community.
55% of millenials and 42% of boomers want public transportation options in their community. With the development of the new CCTA bus stop, Burlington is already heading in the right direction with a great transportation system.
Transportation planning focuses on congestion mitigation and reducing traffic between residential and work centers during rush hours, therefor it’s not limited to a bus system. Local mobility planning considers how residents are able to circulate around the community throughout the day. The Pine Street corridor is a main artery to Burlington that is often congested before and after working hours. New transit options such as the Champlain Parkway and Railyard Enterprise Project will help alleviate congestion while also catalyzing growth, productivity gains, and business recruitment.
Burlington is in need of the many projects happening downtown in order to keep the appeal that residents, businesses, and visitors have grown to love and enjoy about our city. Burlington now stands at a crossroad with these projects to build on its strengths in order to create a more sustainable future for the city.