Friday, December 5, 2008

A walkable interior neighborhood shopping area

Today I was speaking with some co-workers about living outside the downtown area. One had had to travel home to pick a forgotten piece of information in order to pay a bill. The time taken to go home, pay the bill and come back had exceeded the time allowed for lunch, consequently he had skipped eating.

Another was telling us of her and her husband's decision to move back to within the New Circle Rd. as soon as they could arrange their finances to do so. As they both work downtown, within walking distance of each other during the daytime but far from where the like to be a night, they wish to find something a little closer to town. Their likely location is the Meadowthorpe area, small homes, close to shopping, parks and, although not really walkable, downtown.

I do like Meadowthorpe but it is just not my cup of tea. I have lived and worked for most of my life within 5 miles of the very center of the city. There was an approximately three year period when, right after I got married, I lived outside the Circle and loathed every minute of it. As soon as we could swing it, I made the move back to within 8 blocks of where I grew up.

Also, don't think that I don't like the rural area. I have been on every rural road in the county and a great number of those in others counties, most all of them by bicycle. I explored the new subdivisions as they were developed and mapped them both on paper and in my mind. Mrs. Sweeper is geographically impaired but I see maps as one sees aerial photos and aerials as detailed maps. You might say that, to me, the image in my mind of Lexington is what others see when looking at Google maps in hybrid mode.

The Meadowthorpe area is a very nice walkable shopping center and one of a select few that are walkable. The ones that come to mind just have a single problem, the fact that they have at least one or two main streets running in front of or through them. Since the early '70s there have been a number of shopping areas planned and built within neighborhoods and all have failed to progress very far before stalling out and coming just short of dying.

The Romany Road shoppes are off of a main road, generally well back into the neighborhood of Chevy Chase and, contrary to conventional wisdom, has and is succeeding. Houses, apartments, duplexes, schools and a park nearby make this shopping area very walkable, so why was the street clogged with oversize SUV's and luxury model sedans taking up every legal and non-legal parking spot the other night? You've got it, the wealthy of this subdivision (and those bordering it) will not walk when it suits them not to. They may be on their way home from the gym, need to pick a quick bite and will park as close to the door as possible, so as not to walk in the cold or rain.

The Romany Road area began to be developed after WW II and contains a grocery, pharmacy, restaurants, offices, bank branches, medical services and a post office. Some elderly housing and other personal services complete the scene and, at one time there was a gas station. Everything neatly, well contained along a short stretch of a narrow suburban street.

I'm sure that there is a lesson to be learned there somewhere, but for nearly 60 years it has escaped the planners and developers, and nothing in Lexington come close to the feel of this jewel of a shopping area.

No comments: