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Proposed Lowe’s in Charlotte N.C. A Good Urban Compromise

October 4, 2005 Loughborough Commons, Planning & Design 1 Comment

Other U.S. cities are finding creative ways of integrating “Big Box” retailing within older urban neighborhoods. Last week I showed you a big box development in Atlanta that managed to create real streets and a mix of building sizes. Now I’ve run across an interesting proposal for a Lowe’s in Charlotte N.C.

Lowe’s has made substantial changes to its plans for a home improvement store on South Boulevard….The plans also move the garden center to the South Boulevard side of the store, next to a new 5,000-square-foot retail building that could house a coffee shop, a deli or other types of neighborhood retail. As in the previous plan, the store would still have parking on the roof and be lined by up to 60 condominiums.

Just imagine, a garden center next to a coffee shop — sounds good to me. Rooftop parking is also a good solution to massive parking lots. And condos around the building. This peaked my interest and I was pleased with what I found.

First, the proposal is not yet final. At this time Lowe’s is on their 4th revision to the site plan. Neighbors are still upset about a Lowe’s in their neighborhood — they are concerned about too much traffic. Hmmm, that sounds familiar. If only they could see the abysmal Lowe’s/Schnuck’s combination we are getting.


Let me explain the site plan above since at this quality you can’t see the detail. The middle of the image is the Lowe’s with parking & trees shown on the roof. To the lower left is a small but typical parking lot in front of the building. The dark band in the picture is parking at the back of the building. But this parking is not for the Lowe’s but is instead for the residential units facing the adjacent neighborhood.


This section gives you a good idea how the Lowe’s is separated from existing residential by new housing. What amazes me is how Lowe’s has had to rework their proposal numerous times before the city would approve the plan. What a novel concept for the city to not just bend over, grab their ankles, and take whatever big box the developer says they want to build!

Also interesting is the level of detail on the proposal from Lowe’s. For Loughborough Commons we got freshmen level architectural sketches. In Charlotte they’ve got an exceptional level of detail for all to see. Click here to review the full PDF document (it is a big one – be patient). The proposal even included a bike & pedestrian map! This showed locations of bike racks (yes, more than one) as well as pedestrian circulation patterns. Meanwhile, we don’t even get sidewalks on our proposals.

The new Target could have benefited from the same type of thinking. Imagine some townhouses along the back of the newly constructed building facing the residential neighborhood.

This is for the folks at City Hall: The developers are going to do the least they can get away with some rare exceptions. Desco is not one of those exceptions! If we are going to have quality developments we must set standards to maintain a sense of urbanity. Clearly we can do this while still permitting big box developers to locate within the city. And if the current crop of people at city hall won’t make the changes we’ll just have to get new ones that will. How about a full round of recalls?

In development you get what you ask for and based on what is being built in and around St. Louis we are saying, “Give us the crap that nobody else allows anymore.” Charlotte isn’t exactly Chicago or Atlanta. Must we continue to settle for second or third rate developments from our second and third rate developers and elected officials that smile at the ribbon cuttings?

– Steve


Currently there is "1 comment" on this Article:

  1. Jim Zavist says:

    Unfortunately, with Target locally, the site was way too small for anything but a bigger Target. The alternative was either an empty, old Target or a completely different redevelopament without them. I like Target and I like their focus on and support of good design for “the masses”, and I’m really glad they spent the extra bucks to stay in an established, in-town neighborhood. I also appreciate the many good things they did to minimize the impact of the new big box, including putting ¾ of the parking under the box, using brick and good detailing on all sides, and doing a very sensitive job on landscaping and signage. Could they have done more? Sure, and I should be richer and better looking. Bottom line, it’s better than what was there before and it’s an asset for the neighborhood! Come on, quit bashing corporate folks who are actually trying to be good corporate citizens and neighbors. They deserve some positive support . . . the alternative could easily have been something like Maplewood Commons!

    [REPLY – I disagree that this Target is the only choice they had for the site. I’ll elaborate in a full post. A 2-story Target with structured parking would have allowed other options on the site. – SLP]


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