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Town & Country Crossing A Marked Improvement Over The Typical Strip Center in Our Region

July 17, 2008 Accessibility, Big Box, Retail, St. Louis County 9 Comments

Last week, after a meeting, I took a drive out West along Clayton Road with the destination being the new Town & Country Crossing shopping center at Clayton & Woods Mill (map).

The municipality of Town & Country is home to many well to do types. Their city, however, is neither town nor country. It is a collection of big homes on streets with pretentious names yet lacking of sidewalks. The closest they get to country is having deer and that is something they’ve been trying to get rid of. A little too country I suppose?

A few years ago Lucent Technologies left a large building and site vacant at the SW corner of Woods Mill and Clayton:

While the existing uninspiring building could have been remodeled for new tenants a developer saw an opportunity for more suburban development. In particular a more upscale development anchored by a Target and Whole Foods.

In the site plan above you get the Target in the bottom left of the development while the Whole Foods is the letter “E” on the right. A large pond/lake is in the upper right near the intersection. A large section of the total site (left) is designated for residential development.

Nothing says upscale like stone and the entry marker has plenty. I actually like the way the signage for the stores is worked into this wall. The above is the Clayton Rd entrance. Note the presence of sidewalks, an unusual sight along Clayton Rd.

Many might think who needs sidewalks because nobody walks out here. The counter argument, of course, is that nobody walks because they have no sidewalks. However, they do have sidewalks in places.

Above is looking North along Woods Mill from the entrance to the residential area to the South of the new Town & Country Crossings. Clearly when this was built some 20 or so years ago they had walking in mind. However the other commercial developments at this intersection are hostile to pedestrians by their design. The center with a Schnuck’s just to the East of this new development is not easily accessible by foot. They claim to be the “friendliest stores in town” but not if you are a pedestrian. OK, enough about them let’s get back to Town & Country Crossing.

Above is the sidewalk coming from Woods Mill. The entrance from Clayton also has a proper sidewalk.

Walking around the lake is also encouraged. The above view is looking East from the Whole Foods outdoor patio. This sidewalk provides another pedestrian access point into the development off of Woods Mill.

So far they’ve done a decent job of connecting various buildings on the site via sidewalks (thus complying with the ADA Access Route requirement). Above is the sidewalk from in front of the Whole Foods turning the corner to the left and eventually connecting to a couple of buildings that will have smaller stores.

Above is looking back the other direction at the entrance to Whole Foods (the only store completed & open on the day I visited). From this vantage point the center looks pretty typical of suburban strip centers.

Out in the middle of the parking area we see another departure from typical centers — an access route dead center. At the other end of the above sidewalk is the main entry to the new target.

Turning around we see that the previous sidewalk connects to a sidewalk that takes you to the strip buildings along the North (Clayton Rd) side if the development. It remains to be seen just how connected the entire site will be once completed.

For example the above is taken from in front of the Whole Foods looking West. Way in the background is a small strip building near the Clayton Rd entrance. At this time I don’t see an obvious route to get from here to there. I’ll have to return in a few months when they are further along, when it is cooler outside, and I can walk farther.

This is not the project I would have placed on this site. I would have done a commercial street lined on both sides by shops. Like the Boulevard off Brentwood near the Galleria although not so cutsie. The lifestyle center I saw last Fall in West Palm Beach (see post) is a good example of the upscale level of urbanism that would have been ideal for this site. Such a plan would require costly structured parking but offered more lease able space in return. It would have given this section of Town & Country a bit of that missing town.

Still as a big box (Target) strip center it is probably the best in the region. I can think of no other on this scale that does such a nice job of bringing the outside pedestrian into the site and then giving then the option to walk internally.

From a March 2007 Post-Dispatch article:

The shopping-center plans drew opposition from some residents who worried that the local streets were not wide enough for the traffic, while others complained that Target seemed a bit lowbrow for the well-to-do community. Residents signed petitions to block the center in its earlier versions, and they sued TNC. The dispute was settled out of court.

Work was done on both Woods Mill and Clayton, widening and adding turn lanes.  Perhaps the resulting project is better as a result of objections from neighbors?  They probably wouldn’t have liked my quasi-urban lifestyle center either.  Hopefully they’ll start adding more sidewalks so that more people can walk to this shopping center.  Hopefully other developers will stop by to see how strip centers should be designed to meet minimum standards of connectivity.


Currently there are "9 comments" on this Article:

  1. Jim Zavist says:

    And what sort of TIF did T&C give them? Given the opposition you describe, I’m guessing none. Just goes to show that money will be spent where money can be made. And when money can be made, amenities are willingly provided. I’d also like to know who pushed the accessibility component – city staff? the developer? and/or the design team, the civil engineers/architect/landscape architect?

  2. Jim Zavist says:

    Any thoughts on the Woods Mill roundabout (shown on the site plan)? As a driver, I have mixed feelings about them, and they create new challenges for pedestrians . . .

  3. JMedwick says:

    So sad to see. I cringe at the thought of the residential development proposed on the field west of the commercial development. The last vestiges of open space destroyed so the commercial development could have acres of surface parking and “properly” separate the residential development from the commercial development.

  4. john says:

    As I cycle out Clayton Rd frequently, you may be surprised how many people walk/run/cycle out in the ‘burbs… often even more than I see in Forest Park. However it is sad to see so much money and space used to support an expensive if not unsustainable communities. Rapidly rising expenses will be burden the County’s budget and cause excessive use motorized vehicles far into the future. The neighborhoods are divided by cul-de-sac developments and many miles have to be driven to go a fraction of a mile. And I’m a big fan of roundabout in intersections instead of 4-way stops. They reduce pollution and allow for nonstop movement. The major problem here is that drivers don’t understand how to use them effectively and fairly as I witness in Forest Park (with their poorly designed roundabouts) virtually every day.
    – –
    I suspect that local residents who have been frequent visitors to other countries, particularly in Europe, have learned a thing or two about sidewalks and the necessity of balance in meeting the needs of both pedestrians and drivers. The roundabouts are quite popular in Europe, well designed and often beautifully decorated. At least the local residents have enough sense to notice some of these features and required the lifestyle center to have two popular anchors.

  5. Chris says:

    I shopped there recently; the Whole Foods is wonderful, but the parking lot is so confusing that they actually have signs to lead you through the maze of parking lots. And no, no one slows down, I might add.

  6. Roy Randall says:

    As we suspected our road leading into Clayton is now a nonstop speedway. I don’t
    ride my bike here anymore, it’s now too dangerous.
    This area is typical of what we see now, if there is a square inch of land just
    sitting there slap something up on it and the heck with open space.

  7. kyle says:

    to roy: one man’s open space is another’s retail development 😉
    i appreciate steve’s spot-on assessment of there being neither town nor country in T&C and the fact that it’s surrounded by a metro area, any ideal of privately owned ‘open space’ is just unrealistic.
    i happen to live in what would be considered the ‘country’ part of T&C and as a very active person, the lack of sidewalks & transportation grid can be maddening esp after living in webster for so many years.
    but i still feel comfortable biking clayton rd with the suicide lane allowing cars to move over.

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