Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Opportunity For A Local Neighborhood Option

Back around the first of the year I wrote about the need for more neighborhood options and decried the lack of walkable local shopping areas in our subdivisions. I also have a history of wailing against the suburban shopping layout when I comes to those missing options. That may be about to change.

Many people look at the Romany Road Shoppes as a prime example of a walkable shopping area which went out of favor somewhere in the late '40s. It has buildings which sit right up on the street and parking behind the stores. It may not have the required parking but it seldom is necessary to walk an excessive distance to do your shopping. In short, it serves the neighborhood to their satisfaction.

Today's developers are working on a whole different mindset. Shopping areas of that size and nature are considered too small to be successful and the traffic arrangement is not to the shoppers liking. These and other reason are always trotted out as to why such an area will fail, therefore not one such area has been attempted in over 50 years.

Think about it, no suburban shopper has been given the choice of such a layout for generations. Walking to a grocery is nearly unheard of in much of suburbia, simply because they never did.

The Millienial generation of today seems to have decided to avoid the suburbs of today and is seeking the most walkable areas of most cities. This generation is just beginning to enter the home buying phase of their lives, yet the still want the walkability when they do. They are driving less – we are driving less and the walkable shopping areas are not being built.

This coming month there is a plan before the Planning Commission for the long delayed Greendale Hills Shopping Area toward the back side of the Masterson Station development. It will be off the proposed Citaton Blvd/Greendale Rd intersection yet still walkable to a large number of residential units.

As proposed, it is laid out just like the typical model even though it lends itself to mimic the Romany Road style with only a few minor tweaks. The number of curb cuts/driveway access points could be reduced greatly with better inter-connectivity at the rear of the properties, yielding a better pedestrian experience for the shoppers.

It appears to me that the design is being driven by a generic CVS/Rite-Aid/Walgreens style building, with a drive through, on the sole prominent corner. The drive through is basically hidden toward the rear, while all other parking is displayed out front as if it was on sale. The rest of the proposed structures appear to be purely speculative. Even the apartment over retail - typical of new Urbanism – buildings are out of place along the rear property line.

This property still has a window of opportunity to make this a walkable destination, a local option worth making the trip by foot.

The B-1 zone, like literally all zones, has no recommendations for placement of buildings but the B-1 really sets the tone for a whole neighborhood. Thoughts like this were not included in the latest re-write of the B-1 zone, and perhaps that ship has sailed. Royal Caribbean thought that their Granduer of the Seas was prepared for many more cruises after it latest refurbishment last year, only to do it again.

The window is open for a better shopping area. Is there a breath of fresh air?

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