Why do you prefer to shop and eat at certain places more than others? Why do people in one neighborhood seem to all know each other while people in another neighborhood keep to themselves? Why will you walk down main street, but drive from one end of the strip mall to the other to frequent different stores? The design of place plays a major factor. It affects your experience, your behavior, the value of the place, and of course the environment.
Below is a comparison of two retail centers designed very differently. Both retail centers are located near each other in Atlantic Beach, Florida and contain popular locally owned and national neighborhood retail shops and restaurants. The first example, the Atlantic Beach Town Center, has a pedestrian friendly design that encourages people to walk to and within the retail center, a fundamental element of sustainable design. The second retail center is designed solely for customers to arrive by automobile, a common design flaw of unsustainable developments.
Atlantic Beach Town Center Design Elements:
- Buildings are setback from the street only enough to allow one row of parking, landscaping and the sidewalk.
- The landscaping and parallel parking along the street provide a buffer between the pedestrian and cars driving down the street, allowing the pedestrian to feel more comfortable walking down the sidewalk.
- The parking, landscaping, sidewalk, building pattern is mirrored on the opposite side of the street, framing the street.
- The buildings are to scale and in character with the surrounding neighborhood.
- The sidewalks are wide and made of dedication bricks.
- The angled parking in front of the retailers along the street is teaser parking, provided to allow for quick automobile stops (good for retailers).
- Parking is limited, encouraging bike and pedestrian traffic.
- Most parking is provided in surface lots located behind the buildings or buffered by landscaping.
Atlantic Beach Strip Mall Design Elements:
- The building is setback from the street to allow four rows of parking.
- Two sidewalks are necessary, one next to the street and one next to the building.
- The sidewalks are not connected, and therefore a pedestrian walking along the street has to cross through the parking lot to visit a business.
- Parking is plentiful, encouraging driving and creating unnecessary impervious surfaces and thus excess stormwater runoff.
- A minimal amount of landscaping is provided within the parking lot for aesthetic purposes, providing minimal shade for the cars and no benefits for the pedestrian.
Are there any other design differences you can find between the developments? Look for future postings of “The Design of Place” with comparison pictures for different types of developments.
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