City leaders, looking for revenue? Go urban!

Or at least go two to three stories.

What more precisely is a main street worth compared to big box/strip mall development to a city’s revenue? Peter Katz, Director of Smart Growth/Urban Planning for Sarasota County, Florida with data compiled by Public Interest Projects provides a compelling look.

Above is a chart showing county property tax revenue per acre for Sarasota, Florida (click on it for a larger image).

The county’s big box stores (Walmart, Sam’s Club) generate $150-$200/acre a year, about the same as city residential (which not surprisingly is much higher than low-density residential).

In the same category as Walmart, the county’s highest retail-only is its regional mall, at almost $22,000 per acre, aided by high end department stores.

However, two to three story mixed-use (retail and residential) at over $70,000/acre produces more than three times that of the Walmart, while three to seven story mixed-use at $560,000/acre generates twenty five times as much. Naturally, the higher you go, the higher the revenue.

The important lesson here is that perhaps two to three story mixed-use development/main street development is a sweet spot for the kind of development a city can prosper with, and its residents can enjoy that walkable small town character in.

For more local analysis of this and other information presented, check out the Citistates Group article, Mixed-Use Downtown Development Puts Standard Malls’ Tax Yield to Shame, and for a copy of the entire report that the graph is from, you can download it here.