New Urbanists, when faced with the reality of the auto-dependent world, advocate shopping centers on main commercial thoroughfares to place parking behind buildings, instead of in front of them.
How effective is this? Are we not just creating inverted strip malls? If everybody still drives, then how does this really create an "urban" environment.
I think one thing that would help is to not provide rear entrances to these stores. In other words, force drivers to walk around to the front of the building and enter through the sidewalk.
Here's an example. Oak Park is a Chicago suburb with a very nice transit-oriented development near Chicago's blue line. A large shopping center with well-intended design is right off the stop, but there are some flaws.
I thought I would do a little urban investigating and walked the main street near the rail stop. What I saw were TGI Friday's, Caribou coffee, blah blah blah with nice stores built right up to the street and parking in the back. But then I was apalled.
Caribou Coffee and one or 2 others had street entrances. But the rest? Here's what I saw from the sidewalk: shopping windows that were completely covered with signs at the "entrance doors" that said "please use rear entrance" which, of course, is where the parking was.
Developers and Planners have a greater obligation than just to make schematics and run away. I honestly think they share the responsibility of creating development that guides human behavior in a positive way. What should have happened instead is that the sidewalk entrance should be open, and the rear entrance completely closed (actually, developers should not have even provided a rear entrance for customers). Thus, drivers should be forced to walk to the front and use the sidewalk entrance.
In its current layout, this development classically shows how Americans prioritize transportation. The transit-rider and the pedestrian are second-class citizens, while the drivers are given a red carpet. It's sad and pathetic, and I hope future planners learn from this mistake and design shopping centers better than this