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Thread: Suburban to urban transition streets

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    Suburban to urban transition streets

    I'm looking for examples of streets that have transitioned, or are in the process of transitioning, from suburban automobile-oriented thoroughfares into successful urban pedestrian-oriented commercial streets. I know of lots of cases where plans have been drawn up to encourage this type of evolution, but I don't know of many examples where it has actually happened with great success. My hypothesis is the transition period is a very difficult and lean time culturally, socially and economically for the street so if the process isn't managed very carefully the plan could be destine for failure. Therefore when these plans are drawn up the implementation and phasing plans are just as critical, if not more so, than the actual end design or ultimate vision.

    Also, I would like to hear of any large sites (e.g. malls) that have successfully transitioned from suburban automobile-oriented uses to urban pedestrian-oriented mixed use sites. The Amerciana at Brand in Glendale is one example I know of that appears to be quite successful.

    Thanks.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Howl View post
    Also, I would like to hear of any large sites (e.g. malls) that have successfully transitioned from suburban automobile-oriented uses to urban pedestrian-oriented mixed use sites. The Amerciana at Brand in Glendale is one example I know of that appears to be quite successful.

    Thanks.
    I would have to disagree about the Americana at Brand in Glendale. That is mostly still a destination place that people arrive at by automobile. It is a development surrounded by arterial streets, and the buildings still back onto the arterial streets. The mixed-use pedestrian friendliness is self-contained and not integrated well with surrounding uses. If anything, it just feels like an updated version of the adjacent outdated Glendale Galleria mall. I know this is overly cynical, but that destination was glammed up with outdoor plazas, landscaping and mixed uses to accommodate their mid to upscale retail businesses.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by cng View post
    I would have to disagree about the Americana at Brand in Glendale. That is mostly still a destination place that people arrive at by automobile. It is a development surrounded by arterial streets, and the buildings still back onto the arterial streets. The mixed-use pedestrian friendliness is self-contained and not integrated well with surrounding uses. If anything, it just feels like an updated version of the adjacent outdated Glendale Galleria mall. I know this is overly cynical, but that destination was glammed up with outdoor plazas, landscaping and mixed uses to accommodate their mid to upscale retail businesses.
    As a follow-up, I would look to suburban communities that have upgraded their downtowns with walkable main streets. It's integrated into the community, but still offers pedestrian comfort and amenities. Brea in the LA area is a good example.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Calgary AB had this to a science when I went there. We were driving to the city and approached from the South along the main highway. On the south side there was literally nothing but prarie. When you crossed a street, and BAM everything was developed. Never seen anything like it before, or since.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Midvale Road and East Washington Avenue in Madison (WI) are examples of this. Midvale was developed in the mid-1900's. So far, the frontage of Hilldale mall is the only significant urbanization. The mall property has been more intensely developed in a lifestyle-ish approach, with townhomes fronting Midvale. Residents have not been overly supportive of these and other proposed projects on this predominantly residential arterial.

    East Washington Avenue was reconstructed with narrow driving lanes and accommodation for bicycles, as well as landscaping. Several redevelopment sites have been identified, made up of a combination of commercial and industrial properties. Redevelopment along the street and in adjoining neighborhoods was going strong up until about 2008. Lately there have been a couple of significant development projects failures. It is an early assessment, but I will say that the street will be more walkable, but not a pedestrian thoroughfare or truly urban as would be an older corridor.
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  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    Thanks for the information so far. I agree that Americana is not a perfect piece of urban fabric and know it has faced a lot of criticism, but it is the type of project that would make a suburban mall owner sit up and take notice of the potential for mixed-use re-development.

    For clarity here's an example of street that is undergoing the suburban-to-urban transition:

    http://maps.google.ca/maps?hl=en&ie=...235.52,,0,2.11

    This is Lakeshore Road in Mississauga. In this case the walkable urban character is spreading out from an old walkable (pre-WWII) core area into the suburban fabric relatively spontaneously. On the south side there is the new urban built-form while on the north side there is the still old (post-WWII) suburban built form. However this street has always been a mish-mash of styles, depending on whether areas were built just before or just after WWII and therefore it's relatively easy for new developers to adopt the pre-war style successfully. What I'm hoping to find is an example of a street that once looked entirely like the right half of the picture and now, through carefully planning and design controls, looks a lot more like the left side of the picture.

    The Madison WI examples may be a good once things have progressed a bit further.

  7. #7
    maudit anglais
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    In Toronto, you could make a case for Yonge Street, north of Sheppard Avenue, and Sheppard Avenue east of Yonge. In both cases subway extensions changed the development form from low-rise, automobile-oriented commercial and low density residential to high density residential and office. The only issue in both cases would be that neither street is particularly pedestrian-oriented as they remain 4-6 lane suburban arterial roadways, and the subway station spacing makes it difficult to promote development between stations.

    The Lakeshore example you cite has a bit of an advantage as the road remained a relatively "tight" urban roadway through its history.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Tranplanner View post
    In Toronto, you could make a case for Yonge Street, north of Sheppard Avenue, and Sheppard Avenue east of Yonge. In both cases subway extensions changed the development form from low-rise, automobile-oriented commercial and low density residential to high density residential and office. The only issue in both cases would be that neither street is particularly pedestrian-oriented as they remain 4-6 lane suburban arterial roadways, and the subway station spacing makes it difficult to promote development between stations.

    The Lakeshore example you cite has a bit of an advantage as the road remained a relatively "tight" urban roadway through its history.
    One of the issues I'm facing is a community wishing to replicate Toronto's experience with its successful "Avenues" (actively promoting the evolution the suburban built form to an urban built form), but without the transit. It seems that the Toronto Avenues that have subways are evolving quite nicely, but the Avenues without the incentive of a robust transit system don't appear to be very successful (yet?). New LRT or subways may help these roads in the future, but without a major incentive such as new transit it doesn't seem to be very realistic to expect a street to change.

    I'm hoping to find examples from other North Amercian cities that I can look at to see what, if anything, is driving their change.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    It makes me laugh when city planners are trying to turn suburb into urban style has 95% does not work in ares built in 60's to now.

    How can you turn this suburb into urban less car- centric.
    http://pricetags.files.wordpress.com...nto-suburb.jpg
    http://www.ledger-dispatch.com/conte...3-21Growth.jpg

    The street hiarchy does not allow it.You cannot .The 90's use of box stores and big power centers make it worse.
    lgary AB had this to a science when I went there. We were driving to the city and approached from the South along the main highway. On the south side there was literally nothing but prarie. When you crossed a street, and BAM everything was developed. Never seen anything like it before, or since.
    Land value was very chaep in Calgary not like Toronto that is why Calgary has very bad sprawl also there is alot of oil in AB so the people in government and city hall are very car Friendly.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian ursus's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by nec209 View post
    It makes me laugh when city planners are trying to turn suburb into urban style has 95% does not work in ares built in 60's to now.

    How can you turn this suburb into urban less car- centric.
    http://pricetags.files.wordpress.com...nto-suburb.jpg
    http://www.ledger-dispatch.com/conte...3-21Growth.jpg
    I think that's why the original poster is looking for examples where it has been successful; clearly it's not always possible. I would argue, however, that over time (lots and lots of time) you can make even suburbs "less" auto-oriented. Not necessarily pedestrian oriented, but more pedestrian friendly...over lots of time. Just a thought.
    "...I would never try to tick Hink off. He kinda intimidates me. He's quite butch, you know." - Maister

  11. #11
    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    I was very impressed with the area around the Pentagon City Mall in Arlington, Virginia. I know this has a lot to do with the MetroRail station that was built there in the 1970s, but it is a good example nonetheless. They actually have sidewalk dining at some of the restaurants, right near the road, and lots of crosswalks and stoplights to accomodate the pedestrians, even though the roads are multiple lanes in the area. There was lots of pedestrian foot-traffic in the area.

    But like I said, this is a combination of having tons of offices, restaurants, stores, and hotels, as well as apartments, all clustered around a major transit stop near a major tourist area.

    I know many will say that Arlington is a more urban area and practically part of Washington DC, but this part of Arlington was definitely largely undeveloped until about the 1960s.

    Looking at Google Maps, I believe the road was Hayes Street, a six-lane boulevard, right near the intersection with 12th Street. Granted, this is more of a local road serving the area, but I think it still gets quite a bit of vehicular traffic and has interchanges with highways in the area. It seems that most of the more major thoroughfares in the area are expressways or quasi-expressways (like U.S. Route 1/Jefferson Davis Highway), with local feeder roads like Hayes Street that are more pedestrian friendly.
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  12. #12
    Cyburbian
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    Some suburbs like the suburbs in New orleans and Dallas is closer to better model of compromise of the grid system to cut down on throu traffic do to streets do not go more than 1 KM but easier to drive and walk with out the road maze.

    It more of compromise of the grid system for anti- grid system of people saying too much throu traffic on the streets and kids playing.

    And you can see it in this Dallas suburb north of the small highway by the water tower .Well below the small highway is what we have now that is very car cenrtic and maze like and you can get lost .

    Well north of the small highway by the water tower is compromise of the grid system to cut down on throu traffic .Do to those streets are no more than 1KM so people will be force to main streets to drive across the city.But still gives it urban feel and easier to drive and walk .

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/fatguyi...at/2890073285/

  13. #13
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by illinoisplanner View post
    I was very impressed with the area around the Pentagon City Mall in Arlington, Virginia. I know this has a lot to do with the MetroRail station that was built there in the 1970s, but it is a good example nonetheless. They actually have sidewalk dining at some of the restaurants, right near the road, and lots of crosswalks and stoplights to accomodate the pedestrians, even though the roads are multiple lanes in the area. There was lots of pedestrian foot-traffic in the area.

    But like I said, this is a combination of having tons of offices, restaurants, stores, and hotels, as well as apartments, all clustered around a major transit stop near a major tourist area.

    I know many will say that Arlington is a more urban area and practically part of Washington DC, but this part of Arlington was definitely largely undeveloped until about the 1960s.

    Looking at Google Maps, I believe the road was Hayes Street, a six-lane boulevard, right near the intersection with 12th Street. Granted, this is more of a local road serving the area, but I think it still gets quite a bit of vehicular traffic and has interchanges with highways in the area. It seems that most of the more major thoroughfares in the area are expressways or quasi-expressways (like U.S. Route 1/Jefferson Davis Highway), with local feeder roads like Hayes Street that are more pedestrian friendly.
    http://maps.google.ca/maps?hl=en&ie=...,4.64,,0,-7.93

    This looks like the kind of thing I'm looking for. And that reminded of the National Harbor Development I came across once before:

    http://maps.google.ca/maps?hl=en&ie=...36.26,,0,-6.38

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