Over at my own blog, I’ve complained about the focus in the livable streets movement on environmental benefits to urbanism. It’s not that those issues aren’t important – it’s that for most people, and certainly for most local governments, it’s the pocketbook issues that get all the attention. So I was happy to see this piece today that discusses the opportunity costs of having your city build a Walmart surrounded by a sea of parking rather than a compact mixed-use district:
[Sarasota County Director of Smart Growth Peter] Katz showed the results from retail properties. Here comes surprise No. 1.: Big box stores such as WalMart and Sam’s Club, when analyzed for county property tax revenue per acre, produce barely more than a single family house; maybe $150 to $200 more a year, Katz said. (Think of all those acres of parking lots.) “That hardly seems worth all the heat that elected officials take when they approve such development,” he noted in a related, written presentation.[…]But here’s the shocker: On a horizontal bar chart Katz showed, you see that zooming to the far right side, outpacing all the retail offerings, even the regional shopping mall, is the revenue from a high-rise mixed-use project in downtown Sarasota. It sits on less than an acre and contributes a hefty $800,000 in tax per acre. (Add in city property taxes and it’s $1.2 million.) “It takes a lot of WalMarts to equal the contribution of that one mixed-use building,” Katz noted.
It’s worth clicking through to read the whole thing (and printing it out for your next local planning commission meeting about that TOD project you really like).