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Thread: Architectural design guidelines for auto-oriented structures?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
    Jun 2005
    NYC area

    Architectural design guidelines for auto-oriented structures?

    I'm working on putting together an RFP for a consultant to assist our department with the creation of a set of architectural guidelines for the municipality. It will have sections targeted toward historic districts, buffer neighborhoods (basically, conservation districts), and commercial districts and will address both building and site design. Several of our commercial districts contain a lot of auto-oriented businesses - by "auto oriented" I mean set back from the street, with parking in front and high-visibility signage designed for motorists. The older commercial districts here tend to be built to a more human scale, with parking behind the structures and facades located directly at the sidewalk's edge.

    The latter type of commercial district is easier to write guidelines for than the former, as there are fewer corporate prototypes (like a Sunoco gas station or a Burger King) and more 19th century historic structures with real architectural detailing. Has anyone had any experience with creating guidelines for auto-oriented "sprawl" style business districts? Right now, I'm thinking that the best we can do is kind of work around the edges for these areas as the chance of a wholesale change in character is nonexistent.


  2. #2
    Cyburbian cellophane's avatar
    Jan 2009
    louisville, ky
    an idea that was frequently tossed around in school when looking at situations like this is a mixed use parking deck. it is pretty easy from a design standpoint to add retail to the front (and side) of, or on the first floor of a parking garage. if you have a large enough lot, you can put in a shortened retail space (30-40 feet) and have your garage behind it. this serves to mask the garage and encourages development of new business in the area while still providing the parking required.

    in a big-box environment this doesnt work quite as well since the space between business is so vast, but it could be implemented with a little forethought and good design to cluster everything instead of having the acres of parking between buildings.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Otis's avatar
    Mar 2002
    Upper left edge
    I'm not clear on what you are looking for. If it is an example of design guidelines that continue to allow auto-oriented buildings, them I have something that may help you. We adopted design standards and guidelines for our "strings and pearls." Strings are the auto-oriented areas, and pearls are pedestrian oriented. On the web here:

  4. #4
    Cyburbian beach_bum's avatar
    Jul 2007
    more West now

    Sounds like you need several different architectural standards or different standards for different districts. An overlay district may be your best bet. How about redevelopment design standards? You would need address setbacks, parking ratios and locations (at least 50% side and rear of building for example). Some other suggested things to address/do are:
    Parking maximums instead of minimums
    Landscaping and hardscape requirements
    Pedestrian amenities such as benches, sidewalks and awnings
    Bike racks
    Material requirements or percentages of facades to have certain materials
    Architectural compatibility
    Design review
    Signage requirements
    Height of buildings
    Make sure to give incentives to do better design, may be a break on buffers, parking spaces, or higher density. Best of luck!
    "Never invest in any idea you can't illustrate with a crayon." ~Peter Lynch

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
    Aug 2001
    The Cheese State
    I did an interesting project for a small town corridor stretching from the downtown to the fringe of the city. We created three zones with progressive accommodation for automobiles. Next to the traditional downtown we proposed buildings with no setback and encouraged two stories. We reconfigured streets to create more onstreet parking. Moving out, we created a small setback but did not allow parking between the street and the primary building. At the edge of town we stepped back still further and allowed uses such as gas stations and fast food, but still minimized parking in front of buildings. Pedestrian features were required in all districts.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  6. #6
    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
    Jun 2005
    NYC area
    Hi everyone,

    We are not looking to change our zoning via this project. The goal is to put together a "best practices" recommendation document for applicants to our local land use boards. The focus is on aesthetics here. We plan to focus on historic districts in the document in addition to the commercial areas. The former will be easier to create guidelines as there is a great deal of preservation material to draw upon. Drawing up architectural guidelines for color selection for an applicant who plans on renovating a KFC or installing a drive-thru on a drug store is another matter. It's tricky because as much as I'd like to throw stuff in there about creating an outdoor room and a nice streetscape for these areas, these commercial districts are located on 40mph arterials with little foot traffic. They aren't fun places to walk and probably never will be.

    Otis, I'll take a look at the link. Thanks!

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