Smart Growth Stories: More choice for less cost in Washington state

“We cannot continue as we did in the 50s and 60s and 70s to sprawl out,” says John Hempelmann, one of the founding partners of Seattle-based law firm Cairncross & Hempelmann. “We need real economic opportunity for the development community building in the cities and building close to the transit hubs.”

Founded in 1987, Cairncross & Hempelmann is located in Seattle’s historic Pioneer Square District, highlighting its investment in maintaining the city’s distinct character. John Hempelmann is also a member of LOCUS, Smart Growth America’s coalition of real estate developers and investors committed to creating livable, economically vibrant places.

As a lawyer who represents real estate developers, Hempelmann keenly follows market trends in his hometown of Seattle. By helping developers build walkable neighborhoods, Hempelmann is giving consumers more options, allowing them to choose for themselves what kind of development they’d prefer.

“We are now providing an urban walkable option and we’re finding that a lot of people are opting for that choice,” he says. “It allows you to reduce transportation costs and allows you to spend more on housing so there’s an economic value to both the buyer and the seller.”

By providing an urban, walkable alternative to the previously dominant suburban, drivable model, Cairncross & Hempelmann is providing people with greater flexibility and choice in their everyday lives. People now have the option to walk or bike rather than drive, a seemingly small shift that has big consequences for the futures of cities and the suburbs.

“We’re not going to eliminate the suburban model. We’re not going to eliminate drivability to the suburban single-family home,” Hempelmann says. “But we have created the urban, walkable option and it is going to capture a much greater share of future rental and homeownership. That’s a given: it’s happening today and I think it’s going to accelerate.”

Cairncross & Hempelmann’s work is helping families across the Seattle region live in vibrant neighborhoods with transportation choices. For Hempelmann, there’s also a forward-thinking aspect that goes beyond the needs of today’s real estate market.

“I want my children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren to experience the same great life that I’ve had,” he says. “America is growing and it’s a great place to be… so we’ve got a lot of people to accommodate and we have to do it in a smart way.”

To download the full transcript: [PDF]

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    3 Responses to Smart Growth Stories: More choice for less cost in Washington state

    1. Lowell Grattan says:

      Smart Growth increases housing costs and road congestion. It is time to calculate these costs and sell Smart Growth Planning with the knowledge that these benefits will exceed the costs.

      City of San Jose

    2. Smart Growth increases housing costs and road congestion. It is time to calculate these costs and sell Smart Growth Planning with the knowledge that these benefits will exceed the costs.

      City of San Jose

    3. East Coast Liberal Debacle says:

      As I watched that video I was reminded about my neighborhood in Arlington, VA where the low income housing complexes were raised and rebuilt with higher density units. The elementary schools are breaking records with an increase illegal immigrant children attending the schools. My realtor friend can’t get families with kids to buy homes in my Arlington Forest neighborhood ,sharing the same school as the low income housing children, as the school ratings have declined considerably. Additionally, I have neighbors who moved out because of this whole social experiment. The Arlington County Board (ACB) spins the Hispanic community has shrunk using the US Census data, the data collected door by door which is not effective with people illegally in the country not willing to answer the door. The schools are breaking records on the need for more classes and kids per class. The ACB also spins ” we need more affordable housing for teachers and firemen” but 90% of applicants are illegal immigrants, future democratic voters, that benefit at the expense of the existing neighborhoods quality of life. With that said I don’t take lightly this man’s comments that existing neighborhoods will be preserved or something like that when I see first hand how nontransparent planning and expedited implementation of affordable housing definitely impacts an existing neighborhood more than expected. I have been vocal about the implementation and lack of neighborhood input so I have been labeled a “bigot” and the like. This just adds insult to injury. Arlington spends $50million per year on affordable housing but the schools still have crackling speakers, muddy playgrounds, crappy lunches and teachers lacking certification. Affordable housing isn’t implemented with respect for existing communities here in Arlington as it is too messy to waste time debating something the Arlington County Board (ACB) will force to happen anyway. The law suits are being prepped. A Federal District Court already shot Arlington down for using race to make decisions on forced integration, making the Arlington County government a racist, reverse that is, organization. Seattle is not aware of the impact of helping their citizens with lowering incomes as they don’t have to deal with the illegal immigrant population like Arlington County, Virginia.

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