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Three Infill Projects Accomodate Pedestrians and Motorists

I’m a huge fan of Retrofitting Suburbia, the redevelopment of formerly auto-centric suburban retail sites. In late September, while on my honeymoon, I got to see three different examples in the Denver area. Two site once had traditional enclosed malls, the third was previously an airport. We started with the oldest and finished with the newest.

Englewood, CO

In June 2000 the CityCenter Englewood project opened, replacing Cinderella City mall that had opened just 32 years earlier:

The mall was completed and officially opened for business on 7 March 1968 and once held the distinction of being the largest covered shopping center west of the Mississippi River. It featured four sections: Rose Mall, Gold Mall, Shamrock Mall and Cinder Alley. In addition, the Center Court area was known as the Blue Mall. It was demolished in 1999. (Wikipedia)

Englewood was founded in the 19th Century but largely developed in the Post-WWII era. Like many post-war suburbs, it lacked a downtown. By the 1980s newer malls had eclipsed Cinderella City. In the late 1990s they saw the replacement of the mall and the coming of light rail as an opportunity to build a downtown:

CityCenter Englewood replaced Cinderella City with a transit-oriented development (TOD).  This TOD is a pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use concept that includes retail, entertainment, residential, office, civic and open space elements with a transit focal point.  The former Foley’s building was renovated into the new Englewood Civic Center, which houses the City Hall offices, the Library, Municipal Court, and the Museum of Outdoor Arts.  The Civic Center was the first feature of CityCenter Englewood to open when it made its debut in June 2000.

The Civic Center creates the cornerstone of the redevelopment of Cinderella City that includes Wal-Mart, Trammell Crow apartments with first floor retail, Office Depot, the Sports Authority, IHOP, Qdoba, and other retail and commercial businesses, second floor office with first floor retail, an RTD light rail station, and a Bally’s Fitness Center.  (City of Englewood)

You can see a current aerial here, and a 1991 aerial here. In the Southwest corner of the site an anchor store building was retained, as was part of the structured parking. The adjacent street grid was brought through the site. Apartments were added nearest the new light rail station, big box stores added to the east end of the site. All connected by a grid of streets and sidewalks.

The former anchor store that remained is nope the Englewood Civic Center
The former anchor store that remained is nope the Englewood Civic Center
The light rail station is to the left, the Walmart down the road to the right. Yes, a Walmart is across the street from a large 3-story apartment building that has street-level retail.
The light rail station is to the left, the Walmart down the road to the right. Yes, a Walmart is across the street from a large 3-story apartment building that has street-level retail.

Not bad for an early example of such a project. We saw people walking as we drove through, others can be seen in Google Street View.

Lakewood, CO

The Villa Italia mall opened two years before Cinderella City, in 1966. By the 1990s Lakewood officials saw both malls dying off, they didn’t want a vacant mall in their city.

A referendum was held in 1997, which authorized “urban renewal” to redevelop Villa Italia into a more conventional downtown district, something that the post-war suburb had never had.

In 1998, Lakewood entered into a joint venture with Denver-based Continuum Development. Continuum purchased the land beneath the mall from the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation in September 1999 and acquired the buildings and ground leases from Equitable in early 2001. The site was rezoned (from that of an enclosed shopping center to a mixed-use development) and the redevelopment plan put in motion.

Villa Italia closed in July 2001, demolition began the following January. Belmar opened in 2004. Like CityCenter Englewood, streets were cut through the site. Not private driveways, public streets with public sidewalks. The pedestrian grid was as equally important as the vehicular grid, not an afterthought.

You can view an old aerial here and a current one here.

A new street at Belmar
A new street at Belmar
The new buildings have a variety of uses and architectural styles
The new buildings have a variety of uses and architectural styles
It too has big boxes, this is the side view of Target.
It too has big boxes, this is the side view of Target.

A former anchor department store building was kept, it’s now a Dick’s Sporting Goods store. New housing is on the perimeter of the site, surrounding the retail core.

Stapleton

When Denver decided to build a new airport east of the developed region the question became what to do with the old airport.

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A wide variety of new housing is part of Stapleton, including single family homes, apartments, townhouses, etc
A wide variety of new housing is part of Stapleton, including single family homes, apartments, townhouses, etc
An internal street in the venter of the retail area
An internal street in the center of the main retail area called The Shops at Northfield Stapleton
Another view
Another view
Another street in the core of the retail area
Another street in the core of the retail area, note the on-street parking
Despite plenty of free parking on the perimeter, to park in the center requires payment. The silver Ford Focus was our rental for 3 days of our 7-day honeymoon
Despite plenty of free parking on the perimeter, to park in the center requires payment. The silver Ford Focus was our rental for 3 days of our 7-day honeymoon
Looking out at the street from our lunch table
Looking out at the street from our lunch table
Just beyond the center you can see big box stores and large parking lots.
Just beyond the center you can see big box stores and large parking lots.
Like the two previous examples, pedestrian connectivity was planned from the start to connect everything together.
Like the two previous examples, pedestrian connectivity was planned from the start to connect everything together.
The urban-ish area on the left, big box to the right. All walkable & drivable.
The urban-ish area on the left, big box to the right. All walkable & drivable.
Another view from the retail center looking toward the big boxes on the perimeter.
Another view from the retail center looking toward the big boxes on the perimeter.
Target is among the many big box stores at Stapleton
Target is among the many big box stores at Stapleton
Looking out from Target, their walkway connects to the Stapleton pedestrian network beyond Target's parking lot.
Looking out from Target, their walkway connects to the Stapleton pedestrian network beyond Target’s parking lot.
The street where we parked terminated in
The street where we parked terminated in a Bass Pro Shops store, also connected to the sidewalk system

The overall site is massive, as you might expect from a former airport. It has many residential neighborhoods, distinct retail areas, and a business park.

Final thoughts

All three are variations on the New Urbanist/Retrofitting Suburbia theme. While I wouldn’t want to live at any of the three I know someone like me, who uses a wheelchair often, can get to businesses at each development on a sidewalk network. All three remain very car friendly, I drove to all three. Providing the option to walk doesn’t make them less appealing to motorists. Some pedestrians probably arrived by car but decide to explore on foot rather than drive from store to store.

— Steve Patterson

 

Parking Garage Attempts To Look Like Multiple Buildings

Parking, specifically parking garages, have been a regular topic here over the last decade, recently a musical garage in Chicago and two St. Louis apartment projects. While on my honeymoon last month we spotted another garage I want to share with you today, this one in Cheyenne Wyoming. We spent a few hours of our week-long Colorado honeymoon in neighboring Wyoming, having lunch in Cheyenne and dessert in Laramie.

Before the garage let me set show you what we saw on our Sunday visit.

My first pic in Cheyenne arriving via the I-25 Business highway/highway 85
My first pic in Cheyenne arriving via the I-25 Business highway/highway 85
Their downtown has a nice, mostly intact street grid and fine 20th century architectural stock.
Their downtown has a nice, mostly intact street grid and fine 20th century architectural stock.
We had lunch at a popular place that plays tribute to TV character Fred Sanford, portrayed by St. Louisan Red Foxx.
We had lunch at Sanford’s Grub & Pub, a regional chain with 10 locations in Wyoming, the Dakotas, and Colorado. Vague references to TV’s junkman Fred Sanford, portrayed by the late Redd Foxx, a St. Louis native.
The train station in Cheyenne WY is a beautiful structure
The historic Union Pacific Cheyenne Depot is a beautiful structure, now a transportation museum. Click the image for more information.

Cheyenne has two municipal garages, each occupying a full city block. Cheyenne, the state capital of Wyoming, also has a large state garage. We drove past one municipal garage a few times, I only discovered the other two once home and researching this post.

This garage attempts to give the appearance of multiple buildings
The Jack R. Spiker parking garage attempts to give the appearance of multiple buildings
Only one corner has occupy-able space, at Lincolnway & Pioneer, chick image for Google Streetview
Only one corner has occupy-able space (right), at Lincolnway & Pioneer, click image for Google Streetview

I’m torn on this garage. On one hand the execution offends my sense of aesthetics, on the other is blends in better than the other two garages, admittedly I’ve only seen them on Google Streetview.

Is skinning a large structure to appear like multiple structures dishonest?  Absolutely! I could get over that if the execution had active space at the sidewalk level, with space for a Walgreend/CVS, Subway, etc. The ides is right, not look like a massive singular block with horizontal lines. Details do matter though.

— Steve Patterson

 

Springfield’s Hy-Vee Grocery Store Made Same Pedestrian Mistakes As St. Louis Developments

In March 2013 I posted about a newly built grocery store near downtown Springfield IL, see Springfield IL & Niemann Foods Don’t Understand Pedestrian-Friendly Design. By May 2013 they’d added a pedestrian route, a non-compliant afterthought, see County Market Near Downtown Springfield IL Retrofits A Pedestrian Route.

My March post prompted a post, and a followup post, from the State Journal-Register in Springfield:

Also in response to Sunday’s column, Ward 7 Ald. Joe McMenamin came to the newspaper office Monday morning to show us plans for the Hy-Vee grocery store coming to MacArthur Boulevard, replacing the blighted old Kmart building.
I am no expert, but it looks to me like Hy-Vee is doing it right. McMenamin used orange marker to show the new sidewalks on both north and south ends of the store and pedestrian access to the store, including two ways for pedestrians to get to the entrance from across busy MacArthur. He used green marker to show the landscaping. There’s a lot.

This is not because of pressure from the city, however. Hy-Vee is doing this on its own. On its own, the company is going above and beyond what Springfield city ordinances require. If only every company was as classy. But they aren’t, which is why the city needs more stringent requirements. (Critique of Springfield’s image touches nerve)

Reading this in April 2013 got me curious about a future store opening in an old Kmart, an important part of retrofitting suburbia is the reuse of existing vacant retail buildings.

Visiting Springfield in May 2013 we went by the Kmart store -  vacant  for a decade
Visiting Springfield in May 2013 we went by the Kmart store – vacant for a decade. Click image for map.
In April 2014 we saw the retrofit in progress. The only sidewalk connection was to the north
In April 2014 we saw the retrofit in progress. The only sidewalk connection was to the north, not two ways as indicates a year earlier
Last month we visited the Hy-Vee store, which opened earlier in the summer
Last month we visited the Hy-Vee store, which opened earlier in the summer
After our previous visit they added a second pedestrian route, this one to the south. Why wasn't this done when all the curbs were formed, concrete poured?
After our previous visit they added a second pedestrian route, this one to the south. Why wasn’t this done when all the curbs were formed, concrete poured?
Two pedestrians ignore the circuitous route and walk directory to exit.
Two pedestrians ignore the circuitous route and walk directory to exit.
Looking back out, this route was retrofitted after new concrete was poured for this project. Not the right way!
Looking back out, this route was retrofitted after new concrete was poured for this project. Not the right way!
The 24-hour store is very nice
The 24-hour store is very nice

The Hy-Vee faces MacArthur Blvd, a busy Springfield arterial road, yet none of the two sidewalk connections are direct. Three bus lines run on MacArthur in front of the store.

Still, the St. Louis region does no better. The Target store on South Hampton is similar, accessible pedestrian access is to the north & south, not directly from Hampton. The build pedestrian-friendly cites the buildings should connect to the public sidewalk network in such a way the general public (read: alb;e-bodied) will use the paved accessible route because it’s the most direct path to the entrance.

Here’s a good example:

The redevelopment of an old Schnucks Plaza added a pleasant way to reach stores from Manchester Rd in Des Peres. Click image to read post from 2012.
The redevelopment of an old Schnucks & shopping center added a pleasant way to reach stores from Manchester Rd in Des Peres. Click image to read post from 2012.

No pedestrian is going to walk in the entry driveway here, or hunt on the sides for a way in. For good design, developments should have accessible pedestrian routes conneting directly as possible to all adjacent public sidewalks. The Hy-Vee in Springfield, like our Target on Hampton, has three adjacent streets. Both connect to just two of the three streets, ignoring the primary street.   Pedestrian fail.

Two buildings out nest MacArthur Blvd were razed, the entire site (paving, curbs, etc) are all brand new. This could’ve been so much better.

— Steve Patterson

 

Urban Land Banking Prairie In Chicago

August 19, 2014 Environment, Featured, Parks, Planning & Design, Real Estate, Travel Comments Off on Urban Land Banking Prairie In Chicago

Yesterday’s post was about an interesting parking garage in Chicago, today is the story of why I went up to the top of the garage.

A long block was a prairie with native grades & flowers, it looked well kept because a wide border was mowed.
A long block was a prairie with native grades & flowers, it looked well kept because a wide border was mowed. A concrete curb separates the natives from the tidy lawn.
From the top of the adjacent parking garage you can see fenced-in prairie.
From the top of the adjacent parking garage you can see fenced-in prairie. Click image for map link. 

My assumption is this is a way of land banking until Northwestern decides to build on the land. The block held a large zig-zag 1940s/50s building, razed sometime within the last decade. The block is fenced, it isn’t used as a park. Land here, between Lake Shore Drive and Michigan Avenue, is much too valuable to sit vacant. The campus map doesn’t identify it.

The result is a very neat looking, but easy to maintain, block.

— Steve Patterson

 

A Landscaped Musical Parking Garage In Chicago

August 18, 2014 Featured, Parking, Travel 16 Comments

Earlier this month I noticed an interesting parking garage in the block east of where we were staying on a weekend in Chicago, it was both landscaped and musical…

The Erie Ontario Parking Garage occupies a full city block in Chicago, located within the Northwestern Memorial Hospital Campus.
The Erie Ontario Parking Garage occupies the western half of a long city block in Chicago, located within the Northwestern University Chicago campus.
The garage includes an entrance for CTA buses
The garage includes an entrance for CTA buses
The back of the planters on the top level, 12
The back of the planters on the top level, 12. Major brackets secure the planters to the structure.
In the center we see more greenery.
In the center we see more greenery.
The 12th floor is also known as the 'Yellow Submarine' level
The 12th floor is also known as the ‘Yellow Submarine’ level
In the elevator & stair lobby you hear a brief clip of 'Yellow Submarine' by the Beetles
In the elevator & stair lobby you hear a brief clip of ‘Yellow Submarine’ by the Beetles Beatles, on a constant loop
Each level features a song clip related to the color assigned
Each level features a song clip related to the color assigned
The directory on the ground floor lists all ten songs for levels 3-12
The directory on the ground floor lists all ten songs for levels 3-12

Here’s a list of the songs for each level (links to Wikipedia):

If you’ve ever returned to a garage and forgotten where you parked your car, you’ll appreciate the songs. You just might have Purple People Eater in your head all day.

— Steve Patterson

 

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