Monday, May 27, 2013

Re-configuring Strip Malls for Walkability

One of the things that I’ve talked a bit about on this blog is how the location of parking plays a large role in the walkable of a street, even in lower-density commercial areas. A few tweaks of a plan can change a development from auto-oriented to pedestrian-oriented. One of the simplest things to do is front the "business end" of commercial buildings onto a street and put parking in the back. The street must also be pedestrian-friendly and the commercial areas need to be close to higher-density residential as well for walkable. The perfect example is Downtown Langley compared to the Langley Bypass. If you look at the actual site coverage in the walkable core of Langley to the auto-oriented Bypass, there isn’t much difference. It’s all about siting and putting a priority on the pedestrian realm.

With this in mind, it was interesting to see a commercial development proposal for the southeast corner of Fraser Highway and Highway 13 in Aldergrove.

Render of proposed development at Highway 13 and Fraser Highway in Aldergrove. Click image to enlarge.

Proposed development at Highway 13 and Fraser Highway in Aldergrove's Site Plan. Click image to enlarge.

The good thing about this proposal is that it fronts some of its buildings to the street, and some parking is "hidden" within the development. Though the proposed development is in a lower-density residential area, the project could be more pedestrian-friendly if access to some of the shop were off the sidewalk along Fraser Highway. To be clear, this isn’t an ideal commercial development for walkability as it is at Highway 13 and Fraser Highway near lower-density residential, but this is a better design than many of the other strip mall proposals I’ve seen lately in some of the Township's more walkable areas.

Example of lane configuration.

With simple tweaks to a plan, you can make an auto-oriented development into a pedestrian-oriented development without having to change site coverage or even reduce parking. If an area was truly going to be pedestrian-oriented, reintroducing commercial lanes would go a long way as all auto-oriented access (expect for on-street parking) would be from the shared lanes and all pedestrian access and storefronts would face the streets. This would also ensure the creation of a retail wall which is so critical to walkability.


Joel W said...

Interesting. The relatively new Shoppers Drug Mart strip mall in Brookswood seems to take this approach as well; but in practice it still isn't very walkable. But I guess it is still better than what was there before, or what is across the street.

davemacdonald said...

Has there been any concerns from businesses in these kinds of spaces that their traffic or marketing won't be visible or is the ROI looking to be about the same (or better) than a typical strip mall?

Nathan Pachal said...

I haven't researched that, but people flow is key.

Nathan Pachal said...

Though for streetfront retail, you actually get a double benifit of having the whole storefront to market you store, plus signage, so I think it works out better. You also get people walking or cycling by and they are more like to drop in to a store on an impulse.