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Thread: Improving regional shopping centers

  1. #1
    Cyburbian ChevyChaseDC's avatar
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    Feb 2004
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    Philadelphia, PA
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    190

    Improving regional shopping centers

    I've been charged with thinking about improving pedestrian access at a major regional shopping area - a large 4-anchor mall surrounded by, within about a 1 mile radius, numerous "big box" centers, including both Target and K-Mart, Sam's Club and Wal-Mart and BJ's, Best Buy, etc. You get the idea, there's probably one of these not too far from you.

    The ideas that I've come across are basically to create attractive and comfortable, easy-to-spot walkways that connect stores within a single shopping center, connect the various buildings within a single property, and connect buildings to transit stops, which are ideally located close (no more than a few hundred feet) to building entrances.

    Any great ideas that have worked well? I especially like the idea of landscaped islands separating parking aisles as a traffic-calming device, so that cars won't cut through diagonally (and where possible the walkways could extend down these).

  2. #2

    Registered
    Oct 2001
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    Solano County, California
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    6,468
    Is there space on site for pad buildings and shopfronts adjacent to the street (particularly near the transit stops)? Even with walkways cutting through parking lots, a sea of parking and six lane arterials is a hostile environment for pedestrians. You can partly ameliorate this, if there is room, by building new buildings adjacent to the street. (Plus, if the owner gets more leasable square footage, will there be an incentive to do nice site plan improvements like walkways?? )

    Of course, some of the anchors will protest any buildings blocking views of their stores, so it will be a balancing act.

  3. #3

    Registered
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    Williston, VT
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    Now that I preside over the results of an attempt to do just what you are thinking about, only on a greenfield site, I have some definite opinions. Attractive walkways, well buffered from traffic, and parking lot islands are all essential.

    They are also not enough. The distances created by the big buildings (like Best Buy, Home Depot, Staples, Linen'n'Things, Bed, Bath, and Beyond, etc., etc. are just too great to get people to walk between different centers, even if they have a reasonably pleasant way to do so. I think BKM is right, you have to infill activity, more attractions. I have been pondering how to integrate housing into some of the more out-of-way nooks in Williston's version, as well. The other thing that is an issue here right now is service space: dumpsters, loading areas, etc. It was an afterthought, if that, by the architects, but we now find that getting pedestrians to flow past dumpsters is a problem (duh?) and so the service spaces are inhibiting the type of linkages you are looking for. Williston has had a policy of trying to mix large and small buildings, but of course the large buildings went up first and it is not clear when, if ever, most of the smaller ones will.

    If you have the capacity, a shuttle service would also help!

  4. #4
    Cyburbian ludes98's avatar
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    Oct 2003
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    We have an "outdoor mall" that is extremely popular right now. It is really a collection of big boxes with a cohesive design. It has all of them in one place with a grocery store and gas station too. It can be a one stop shop for pretty much everything except home improvement (no HD or Lowe's included.) It has covered and attractive walkways, outdoor mood music, nice landscaping, and shuttle golf carts.

    My problem with the whole concept is that you are buying goods! (I won't make any comments on excess though I am tempted and it certainly relates.) At some point you have more bags than you wish to carry. I can't buy a 40lb bag of dog food at Petsmart, the new DVD player at Ultimate Electronics, stop at Fatburger for some food, then on to Marshalls for some clearance goods, before I hit the grocery store for the necessities in one trip. It is the nature of the uses and retailers. Do you use the walkways/shuttle for a drop? More like go to car then drive to different area of center and continue shopping.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian RandomPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ludes98
    We have an "outdoor mall" that is extremely popular right now. It is really a collection of big boxes with a cohesive design. It has all of them in one place with a grocery store and gas station too. It can be a one stop shop for pretty much everything except home improvement (no HD or Lowe's included.) It has covered and attractive walkways, outdoor mood music, nice landscaping, and shuttle golf carts.

    My problem with the whole concept is that you are buying goods! (I won't make any comments on excess though I am tempted and it certainly relates.) At some point you have more bags than you wish to carry. I can't buy a 40lb bag of dog food at Petsmart, the new DVD player at Ultimate Electronics, stop at Fatburger for some food, then on to Marshalls for some clearance goods, before I hit the grocery store for the necessities in one trip. It is the nature of the uses and retailers. Do you use the walkways/shuttle for a drop? More like go to car then drive to different area of center and continue shopping.
    You're absolutely right - it wouldn't work to buy a bunch of stuff and keep walking, not moving the car or at least dropping packages off. But how do we solve that then? And what about the Saturday afternoon with the girls where I really am just going to TJMax, running over to pick up a few groceries for dinner tonight, and grabbing a sandwhich at Panera. That's stuff I can carry all in my little tote bag and don't need to go to the car for...How do we plan for a balance of these two situations??
    How do I know you are who you think you are?

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    All good replies so far. I don't think there is any way around people's desire to drop off their purchases before going on to the next store, to which they will then want to drive. I would also caution very strongly against any kind of shuttle or trolley concept. Where I have seen these, they have universally been a failure. Give a good deal of thought to the in-fill uses. Restaurants are a good choice. Can you build in public uses? Parks and playgrounds can encourage people to walk more.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Emeritus Bear Up North's avatar
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    May 2003
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    Northwestern Ohio
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    A non-planner tells you how he would approach the above-described shopping areas:

    If, as Cardinal says, there are restaurants located in the space between the main shopping area and the big box.....YES, I would certainly look at parking my truck in front of the restaurant, going in the shopping direction desired (probably different directions for husband and wife) and meeting-up back at the restaurant to nightcap (so to speak) the shopping trip.

    If there would be transit.....I wouldn't use it for that short of a distance. If there would be a park in that space......I probably wouldn't walk through it to go from the main center to the box.

    To avoid Toledo crowds, Katie and I shop in little Adrian, Michigan.....about twenty (20) miles north of our home. Picture this order, from west to east: Adrian Mall, parking lot, feeder street, Tecumseh Bank, parking lot, feeder street, Meijer's superstore, parking lot, feeder street, Lowe's. Across the street from Lowe's is the super Walmart.

    Even in the nicest weather I have NEVER seen a pedestrian going across those feeder streets. We all drive, even if it is only half a block.

    Bear
    Occupy Cyburbia!

  8. #8

    Registered
    Jan 2005
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    Pennsylvania, USA
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    15

    Regional Center

    Malls still have some advantages to shopping downtown and also shopping at Big Box Retailers. The biggest is the fact that you can park in one place and attend several stores and it's all indoors.
    To open the center up to pedestrians...I would think abut consolidating some of the parking into a garage. Adding outdoor shopping between the mall and the perimeter roads. Seeking help from the city transit to offer a "shopping trolley" to circle the mall and link it to the Big Box Retailers.
    I also would strongly suggest adding a PARK !!! It's true...studies show that shoppers prefer a place that offers recreation for children. Maybe even the foodcourt could open-up to an outside eating area.

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