A 1,000 person rental development currently under construction in Tempe, Arizona, is to carry out a rather bold new experiment, making the area an entirely “car-free zone”.
Tenants who live at the development will have to sign an agreement within their lease that states they cannot have cars parked outside their homes, nor in the surrounding area. The idea is to test demand for “walkable” neighborhoods, which is supposedly one of the main desires of younger adults. As such, the development wants to encourage residents to ditch their vehicles and use scooters, bikes, ride-hailing services and public transportation instead.
The Culdesac Tempe development will be made up of three-story buildings and will feature lots of retail and open spaces such as communal fire pits instead of parking areas. The development has the advantage of being located close to a light rail station, which provides connections to Arizona State University, downtown Phoenix and the airport.
“Transportation has changed a lot over the last decade and real estate hasn’t kept up,” said Ryan Johnson, co-founder and chief executive of the Culdesac development, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. “Now there’s the chance for us to build the first post-car development.”
And there’s reason to believe the homes will be in high demand, as a 2010 survey by the National Association of Home Builders showed that 60% of home buyers would like to live in a walkable neighborhood.
The point is that younger adults prefer to drive less, and indeed fewer 16-year olds are getting driving licenses. In 2017, only about a quarter of 16-year-olds had a driver’s license, down from half in 1983, according to a study by transportation researcher Michael Sivak.
Culdesac developers hope to use the Tempe project as a model for other parts of the country, and are eyeing an expansion of the concept in Denver and Dallas, for example.
But not everyone believes carfree neighborhoods will take off.
“‘Quirky’ is probably the right word,” Robert Dietz, chief economist of the NAHB, told the Journal. “People are more adaptable in terms of taking Uber and public transport, but a lot of households still want one car.”