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Thread: Sustainable power centers and greenwashing

  1. #1
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Sustainable power centers and greenwashing

    A bit of a background: a struggling country club in South Euclid, Ohio, the home of yours truly for about five years, closed down a couple of years ago. (They merged with another country club on the other side of South Euclid.) The land was sold to a developer after an unsuccessful effort to preserve it as open space, and after a referendum, rezoned for commercial development. Although there was some opposition, the project had moderate support among residents, and was eagerly embraced by city officials. South Euclid is a middle class suburb with fairly high property taxes for the Cleveland area, and a much lower ratio of commercial to residential uses than neighboring communities. There was a lot of retail leakage, and a sense that the city wasn't getting its fair share of the benefits of commercial development; mainly, tax revenue from land uses that use few city services compared to single family houses.

    The developer promised a project that was green, sustainable, environmentally friendly, and so on; all the buzzwords.

    This is the result. A vehicle-oriented power center in an otherwise dense, pedestrian-friendly although not always pedestrian-oriented inner ring suburb.



    But ... it's sustainable!



    The merits of Wal-Mart aside, I wonder if any citizens or stakeholders really believe a power center can be "green", "sustainable", and the like. Oakwood Commons, like it or not, seems like the most egregious case of greenwashing I've encountered.

    Is it possible for a vehicle-oriented, big box-anchored power center to be "green?"
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  2. #2
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    Considering the alternative, I like it. It moves a 'worst' situation to 'good'. Purists will naturally gripe and moan . I do think there should be accommodation for bicycles to and through the complex.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    The charging station thing always puzzles me. If they were installed around where I live, I know the power company would be burning coal to get those electrons into my car's battery. I wouldn't consider that a sustainable design element.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Kingmak's avatar
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    I agree with Mike, considering them doing this anyways and not doing any of these things, this is good. Low Impact Development (perm pavement, bioswales, etc.) are legit green development in that they serve multiple purposes and reduce the impact of conventional/grey infrastructure. A green roof on that Wal-Mart would be preferable. If anything, this development will add to the science of sustainable development (studies) and work to expand the market for sustainable/green tech.

    Of course, a giant carbon store (park) would have been good as well, but if you must, do it in a sustainable manner.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mike gurnee View post
    Considering the alternative, I like it. It moves a 'worst' situation to 'good'. Purists will naturally gripe and moan . I do think there should be accommodation for bicycles to and through the complex.
    I agree with Gurnee it's not bad. The parking lot is a disaster, though and needs many more trees. Greenwash? No. But this is as far as they take it, and I don't see "sustainable" on the ground. Good marketing though, and a few more of these will make the phrase meaningless if it isn't already.
    -------
    Give a man a gun, and he can rob a bank. Give a man a bank, and he can rob the world.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
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    Basically a more vegetated LEED building cluster with a park behind it. This is such a small step forward in civil engineering and architecture. And comments like mike gurnee posted are the reasons we take such small baby steps forward in site development "it could be worse" is never a good answer to accepting mediocrity.

    - The right side of the development is nothing new, save maybe the green setback from the main thoroughfare. Honestly, if this were a densely developed city that greenspace is against what I would consider "mixed use" you want the homes to be close to the commercial, then the parkland not really separating the homes from the commercial which would discourage walking by making the walk further away.

    - I also see wasted lot potential on the lower right where the existing homes front a road and nothing to the back, would like to have seen maybe a mixed use residential site where townhomes or more SF homes lined the lower right backing up to the existing homes, could have been nice.

    - The trail system in the greenspace does not connect to the existing neighborhood except through the vehicle entryway. There were plenty of other opportunities to connect the trail system to other sidewalks and roads.

    - Zero interconnectivity with the existing neighborhood and the commercial area, the entrance is still off the main road, not even a pedestrian entrance to the sides.

    - Vegetated swales, ok nice but how about true bio retention?

    - EV charging? Depends where but this will probably be underutilized for a long time. Better just to install supporting infrastructure till it's time.

    - LEED ok, but what about green roofs for stormwater filtration because you will probably be using the pond system behind this commercial facility for stormwater retention/detention.

    - I also don't see sidewalk along the thoroughfare, tough scale to see though.

    It looks nice but it is such a small step from the typical big box development you can't ignore it. If this were a pre ap meeting I would tell the site engineer that it was a nice first draft but they can do much better.

    Also, as you can see from this picture, they are redeveloping a golf course into this site - the residents are already used to open space in this area. I also find it odd that this size of commercial facility is coming to what appears to be a more residential main thoroughfare, I don't see the other associated highway development in this area on this map? My other guess is they are reducing the golf course to 9 holes and keeping the highway frontage a golf course because on another plan is says permanent open space to remain to the right looking at the development from the main road.
    Last edited by Tide; 18 Sep 2012 at 10:11 AM.
    @GigCityPlanner

  7. #7
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Tide View post
    Basically a more vegetated LEED building cluster with a park behind it. This is such a small step forward in civil engineering and architecture. And comments like mike gurnee posted are the reasons we take such small baby steps forward in site development "it could be worse" is never a good answer to accepting mediocrity.

    ...

    It looks nice but it is such a small step from the typical big box development you can't ignore it. If this were a pre ap meeting I would tell the site engineer that it was a nice first draft but they can do much better.
    The snipped are great points, but who is going to pay for it? Your benefits don't accrue to the developer, so whatever changes you think are great have to be paid for by someone. If the pols aren't going to give more incentives and tax breaks, that's what you get (and in many cases, you don't even get that).
    -------
    Give a man a gun, and he can rob a bank. Give a man a bank, and he can rob the world.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ColoGI View post
    The snipped are great points, but who is going to pay for it? Your benefits don't accrue to the developer, so whatever changes you think are great have to be paid for by someone. If the pols aren't going to give more incentives and tax breaks, that's what you get (and in many cases, you don't even get that).
    Where did this notion of having to be paid (compensated) for good/high quality design come from? It had to be born out of the economic development model of the 80s.

    Bottom line, if this is a project that wants to come to the region, if you want to develop in [insert town here] then you have to bring your A game. Too many towns accept mediocrity and substandard development, especially from larger national chains. Doing almost everything I mentioned, except maybe the greenroofs, would be minimal in price, and in almost every case, increase land value and appeal. I wish more towns would stop accepting dressed up shit from strip mall developers and demand they do better. That's the price of doing business in [insert town here].

    Now you may proceed with the, well they'll just go to the next town of the county and get them to cave. And yes that happens, but if the surrounding cities and counties can come to an informal agreement that they will all stand for what's best for the region then that game will be neutralized quickly.
    @GigCityPlanner

  9. #9
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Also, as you can see from this picture, they are redeveloping a golf course into this site - the residents are already used to open space in this area. I also find it odd that this size of commercial facility is coming to what appears to be a more residential main thoroughfare, I don't see the other associated highway development in this area on this map? My other guess is they are reducing the golf course to 9 holes and keeping the highway frontage a golf course because on another plan is says permanent open space to remain to the right looking at the development from the main road.
    The area on Google Maps.

    The back end of the former country club is going to become a park, but with no golf course.

    The location is along a major arterial (Warrensville Center Road), but it's not at an intersection with another major arterial. It's located about equidistant between two east-west arterials (Cedar Road and Mayfield Road). It's an odd location for a power center, IMHO.

    Except for some large lot development at the north end of the city, most streets in South Euclid have sidewalks with tree lawns on both sides of the street. Along major arterials, the character is that of a 1920s streetcar suburb where development stalled through the Depression and WWII; a mix of interwar taxpayers and early postwar commercial along Mayfield and parts of Cedar.

    Also, the city's comprehensive plan stated that if the golf course were to close, it should be redeveloped for residential uses. However, the housing market in the Cleveland area got hit hard in the Great Recession, and South Euclid was at the epicenter. It's a predominantly middle class (with some lower-middle and upper-middle income areas), surrounded by more affluent communities on the east, south and west (Cleveland Heights, University Heights, Beachwood, Lyndhurst, Richmond Heights), but to the northwest is a struggling neighborhood in the City of Cleveland. Some Cleveland residents moved to South Euclid in the early-to-mid 2000s, and they abandoned their homes when they either lost their jobs or their ARMs readjusted. There's still a glut of housing in South Euclid, with prices remaining tanked.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    The location is along a major arterial (Warrensville Center Road), but it's not at an intersection with another major arterial. It's located about equidistant between two east-west arterials (Cedar Road and Mayfield Road). It's an odd location for a power center, IMHO.
    Agreed.
    @GigCityPlanner

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