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Thread: New urbanism and the 6 lane highway

  1. #1
    Cyburbian mique28's avatar
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    New urbanism and the 6 lane highway

    Our community, an inner ring suburb of a major metro area, has a heavily traveled six lane roadway that cuts right through the Village (its actually a state highway, but the intersections are signaled). One side of the road is single family ranch homes with setbacks of 35 feet or more and the other side is big box commercial.

    I am looking for examples where a built environment such as this was made more pedestrian friendly, streetscaped or given New Urbanist-ish improvements (minimal setbacks, mixed use) Do such places exist? And, would it even "work" in the area I described?

    The reason I ask is because along this stretch of road a mixed use condominium project is proposed and I am trying to find examples where such a use may have been successful. While I don't like the current aesthetics of the existing area I am not sure a 3-4 story condominium project make sense there. The condo design would be more along the lines of an urban infill along a Main Street, but our this "Street" has 38,000 cars per day. Thanks for your thoughts

  2. #2
    Cyburbian abrowne's avatar
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    Boulevard it? Perhaps some photos might provide more information of what is reasonable and could aid in identifying similar circumstances elsewhere.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mique28
    Our community, an inner ring suburb of a major metro area, has a heavily traveled six lane roadway that cuts right through the Village (its actually a state highway, but the intersections are signaled). One side of the road is single family ranch homes with setbacks of 35 feet or more and the other side is big box commercial.
    This sounds a lot like the Dundee, IL area along Highway 25 out in a certain poster's neighborhood. The mixture along the commercial side of the road is quite mixed in terms of setbacks, with highway services (gas, food) along outlots near the road, and large shopping malls to the back. Churches and older developments are much closer to the roadway ROW.

    I don't know if there is much to emulate about it though. It seems like a pretty plain jane development pattern. I don't ever recall seeing pedestrians cross the street. Maybe Ill Planner would be helpful here?

  4. #4
    Cyburbian mique28's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by abrowne
    Boulevard it? Perhaps some photos might provide more information of what is reasonable and could aid in identifying similar circumstances elsewhere.

    Here is an image of typical stretches of the road that I am referring to. The strip commercial is primarily on the right and the single family uses on the left.
    Now imagine someone putting a very "downtown" (sorry, best way to describe) looking condo development on the residential side.
    My question is whether such a project could be a catalyst for change along the corridor, creating a somewhat more vibrant location as opposed to strip development? Or would the condo stick out like a sore thumb and truly be incompatable. I realize now that my question may be a bit difficult for anyone to answer, espescailly since you may not be looking at our zoning map etc., so maybe at best this thread could spur some discussion about the redesign of suburbs.

    (Ohh and yes zoning would allow for the condo and streetscape is hindered by the DOT)
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails MVC-015F.JPG  

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Random Traffic Guy's avatar
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    What's the downside of allowing the condos? Is it new development or replacing something else? It might take off. If not, no loss compared to what you have now. It still provides housing (even affordable housing if nothing else happens around it). Let the market decide.

    In my town there was a large new urbanish apartment complex go in on a corner of two major arterials (not quite as wide as the one in the picture). Replaced a vacant strip center. It had retail on the first floor and 3-4 levels of apartments above for the buildings along the streets. In behind it is more typical apartments. It was not up directly on the street, but only 60' back (one parking bay), much closer than the other corners. It doesn't generate a ton of pedestrian traffic (very auto-oriented part of town), but people tell me it is nearly fully occupied and the ground floor businesses are still there. Aerial picture from dfwmaps.com. The two buildings on the east side are the most urbanish.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian abrowne's avatar
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    I think there is a real chance that this condo development might begin more concentrated development on the corridor. The road is fine... it's a bit large, but that's not a problem. Expect speed limit to be the main issue, but so long as generous pedestrian crossings are provided at stop lights this should be of minimal trouble.

    I think that even if the condo does stick out like a sore thumb and does not spur any redevelopment, well, there is really nothing to wreck. It's just any other strip corridor. What would be there instead? Automobile servicing or fast food? It's not exactly displacing unique things. I think the 4 storey condo building is a smart addition.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner
    This sounds a lot like the Dundee, IL area along Highway 25 out in a certain poster's neighborhood. The mixture along the commercial side of the road is quite mixed in terms of setbacks, with highway services (gas, food) along outlots near the road, and large shopping malls to the back. Churches and older developments are much closer to the roadway ROW.

    I don't know if there is much to emulate about it though. It seems like a pretty plain jane development pattern. I don't ever recall seeing pedestrians cross the street. Maybe Ill Planner would be helpful here?
    Actually, Route 72 may be more appropriate here. This is a 4-lane highway that slices through the historic downtown West Dundee. It is one of the more acclaimed and popular suburban downtown destinations, featuring lots of specialty gift shops and antique shops as well as some fine restaurants. However, traffic is 30 MPH, there are several stoplights, and there are adjacent sidewalks and fancy features like lighting and brick pavers, as well as the glorious Fox River. The road being 4 lanes through downtown just means that no parking is available on the street, and is rather behind the buildings. While I don't see as many pedestrians crossing as in other towns, I do see bikers who ride on the adjacent Fox River Bike Path. Additionally, if someone wants to go see the shops on the other side of the road, they will usually drive over to the other side and park over there. While this is not good at retaining pedestrian activity, it is what was necessary to keep traffic flowing through this popular town at one of a limited number of river crossings.

    I think even 6 lanes could work though. Just as long as traffic is slowed down enough and there are plenty of stoplights to allow for safe crossing points, things should be fine. While it is not 100% good planning, it can work.

    Hope this helps.
    "Life's a journey, not a destination"
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  8. #8
    Check out Cathedral City, California...New Urbanist plan for a city with a major highway bisection. Good luck!

  9. #9
    Cyburbian mique28's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by The Dutchman
    Check out Cathedral City, California...New Urbanist plan for a city with a major highway bisection. Good luck!

    Thank you all for your replies. The points about the condos being better than the current land use is definetly correct. They would replace a vacant garage/storage building and some single family homes. The downside really is that I worry that a great pedestrian realm and living environment would be tough to create in this location becuase of DOT restrictions (street design and speed limits) and this would leave the condos "all alone" in a bad situation. Still, I would agree with you abrowne and RTG that we probably don't have much to loose and we could fight the DOT battles another day.

    By the way, the Cathedral City example is an interesting and good one. CNU has some nice info on the efforts there.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian dankrzyz's avatar
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    Maybe you could split it into two (2) one-way roadways and sent each down two streets within the village. A "couplet" I've heard it called by transportation planners.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    I have nothing at all against a higher density condomini(m)um project along that road and like the idea, as it could be the catalyst for more and better things to come. I would also have the powers-that-be in your suburb look into comp-plan updates that will allow for more market-driven neighborhood style commercial and high-density mixed use redevelopment on the 'residential' side of that main street in that area and keep an open mind on these matters, not blindly maintaining the old 'strict seperation of uses' that is the hallmark of the sterile traditional 20th Century zoning and development patterns, in the rest of your suburb. People moving in to such places appreciate the close-in convenience of having common services within a short walk.

    As for pedestrian issues, Milwaukee once had an ASTONISHING transit system with 'light rail' local streetcar lines and electric trackless trolley bus routes all over the city and poking into the inner suburbs along with regional-interurban streetcar lines going several directions deep into the hinterlands. It was all gone, replaced with diesel busses and cars, by the mid-1960s. In the longer term, such increased unit density on a more widespread basis, along with continued higher fuel prices, could make such things practical again.

    Too bad this development didn't come up before WisDOT redid the street, as more streetscaping and pedestrian things could have been included to make it more 'personable'. We're having a bad problem with this here in the Appleton area because the unincorporated townships west of the city (where the heavy commercial sprawl is) just don't give a you-know-what about those issues. Very unsafe and UUUUUGGGGLLLYYY!!!!

    BTW, I'm rattling my brain as to the location of that image because I am familiar with much of Milwaukeeland. We have an off and on series of "Guess the ____" threads in the Friday Afternoon Club section of this forum. The power lines tell me that that might be somewhere along the WI 100 corridor south of I-94 (Hales Corners?) or along Greenfield Av (WI 59) in the City of New Berlin.

    Mike
    Last edited by mgk920; 19 Jan 2006 at 2:00 AM.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian iamme's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mgk920
    BTW, I'm rattling my brain as to the location of that image because I am familiar with much of Milwaukeeland. We have an off and on series of "Guess the ____" threads in the Friday Afternoon Club section of this forum. The power lines tell me that that might be somewhere along the WI 100 corridor south of I-94 (Hales Corners?) or along Greenfield Av (WI 59) in the City of New Berlin.

    Mike
    I was wondering about this as well, I was thinking on Brown Deer Road about 60th maybe. Umm and to not hijack this...

    Even if your worst fears come true and this form of development doesn't catch on in this location, does it really look bad or just make the surroundings pale in comparison?

  13. #13
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by abrowne
    Boulevard it?
    Is there room for a two- to four-lane center roadway, two narrow tree-/shrub-lined medians and two one-lane service roads on the outside?

  14. #14
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Is this what the mixed use building will be like?:





    Granted the above building is in a 2 lane main street context, in a streetcar suburb.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Let's not be didactic in this profession, because that is a path to disillusion and irrelevancy.

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  15. #15
    Cyburbian mique28's avatar
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    Ok let me answer some questions.

    Mendleman,the building would probably be similar in style in the sense that it has an "urban" and "modern" feel to it for lack of better terms. The massing and height would be similar as well, perhaps a little smaller.

    A big bonus goes to iamme... you hit the location on the head. 66th and Brown Deer Rd.

    Jmello, while there is room to do what you describe (I noticed that Cathedral City CA as referenced earlier tried this approach) and I think it has merit, I do not think that our DOT would support it. This road at one time was destined to be part of a northern interstate highway loop around our metro area and I don't think that this notion has ever completely erased itself out of the minds of the state transit engineers.

    mgk920 and iamme, points well taken about the condos potentially spurring new development. I like the notion that at worst such a development would make the surrounding uses pale in comparison. I also agree and realize that the single family residential land use in this location is outdated in some sense and that development pressures call for a new approach. As a side note, we don't have a completed comp plan yet! We will begin the process soon and I must say I am looking forward to it. I have a strong feeling that the zoning here will get a close look and fresh perspective.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mique28
    Ok let me answer some questions.

    Mendleman,the building would probably be similar in style in the sense that it has an "urban" and "modern" feel to it for lack of better terms. The massing and height would be similar as well, perhaps a little smaller.

    A big bonus goes to iamme... you hit the location on the head. 66th and Brown Deer Rd.
    Darn.... (hehehehe)

    That would put this immediately east of the Milwaukee city limits and a few blocks farther east of the former Northridge Mall, a daunting task of local redevelopment. (A side note, it is truly amazing to me how very fragile late 20th Century enclosed mall shopping centers are as business ventures and how fast and hard they crash when they do fall.) Has Milwaukee made any attempts at redefining that area in its post-mall existance? What kind of contacts, if any, has Brown Deer had with Milwaukee about co-ordinating planning and so forth in that area?

    Quote Originally posted by mique28
    Jmello, while there is room to do what you describe (I noticed that Cathedral City CA as referenced earlier tried this approach) and I think it has merit, I do not think that our DOT would support it. This road at one time was destined to be part of a northern interstate highway loop around our metro area and I don't think that this notion has ever completely erased itself out of the minds of the state transit engineers.
    What are the traffic trends on Drown Deer Rd (WI 100)? One thing that I have seen over and over is that the simple act of not building a proposed freeway (or other majorly upgraded traffic artery) does not make the traffic go away. I do sense a need for a better way for regional through traffic to cross northern Milwaukee County and perhaps the solution will be something like now exists on Silver Spring Dr or, perhaps, what WisDOT is thinking about for planned upgrades to Verona Rd (US 18/151) in Madison/Fitchburg (they are looking at a depressed freeway between two highly landscaped 'boulevard' style one-way frontage roads - unless one walks right up to the landscaping and looks over, like with I-35 in northeastern downtown Duluth, MN, someone on the ground will never know that a freeway is down there). The latter is being designed as a way of handling the heavy US 18/151 through traffic while returning the street itself to the neighbors.

    I firmly believe that if done right, both a neighborhood and a freeway can happily exist side by side.

    Quote Originally posted by mique28
    mgk920 and iamme, points well taken about the condos potentially spurring new development. I like the notion that at worst such a development would make the surrounding uses pale in comparison. I also agree and realize that the single family residential land use in this location is outdated in some sense and that development pressures call for a new approach. As a side note, we don't have a completed comp plan yet! We will begin the process soon and I must say I am looking forward to it. I have a strong feeling that the zoning here will get a close look and fresh perspective.
    Good luck and I hope that you can co-ordinate something with Milwaukee, as I can see long-term good things for the Brown Deer Rd corridor.

    Too bad neighboring Mequon is so deeply stuck in its 'snooty' McMansion rut.

    Mike

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