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Old 04-11-2012, 09:42 AM
 
Location: The Port City is rising.
8,771 posts, read 10,674,733 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JEB77 View Post
I've read the same thing - namely, that there hasn't been an enclosed mall built in the past 5-6 years. However, there is a difference between saturation and obsolescence. This area, like quite a few others in the country, has some malls that are doing very well (Tysons, Fair Oaks, Pentagon City) and others that are floundering and going the way of the dodo. I don't go to Tysons to shop that often, but when I do it always seems crowded and people seem to be willing to put up with all the construction to get there.
Its not just that none are being built, but that lots are being closed or converted to something else. Which indicates something beyond saturation. But yeah, a certain number of strong ones seem to be quite able to survive - I think it has a lot to do with the more limited number of potential anchors, and where those anchors find it worthwhile to stay. In NoVa is seems like Tysons and Pentagon City and DTC and Fair Oaks will do just fine (interesting to note that one of those is on a metro stop and has a lifestyle center adjacent, one is near to a metro stop that will open in 2013 and where major urbanist densification is slated, one is next to an existing lifestyle center, and one is zoned for densification in the adjoining properties). In baltimore the death of Owings Mills Mall seems matched by success at Towsontowne Center.
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Old 04-11-2012, 09:43 AM
 
Location: The Port City is rising.
8,771 posts, read 10,674,733 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Caladium View Post
I have a feeling we'll see quite an upswing in people shopping at malls this summer if we end up get the sweltering temps and mosquitoes that have been predicted. I like town centers, but I still prefer enclosed malls when the weather's bad. Especially when I want to shop at a bunch of different stores.

sweltering temps, and more people driving to Tysons. Code Red, here we come!
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Old 04-11-2012, 03:10 PM
 
Location: Metro Washington DC
13,026 posts, read 19,853,706 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Caladium View Post
I have a feeling we'll see quite an upswing in people shopping at malls this summer if we end up get the sweltering temps and mosquitoes that have been predicted. I like town centers, but I still prefer enclosed malls when the weather's bad. Especially when I want to shop at a bunch of different stores.
I just got back from Europe (Denmark) where the stores are often on pedestrian only streets. The weather was really cold and rainy. Made me appreciate the indoor shopping here.
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Old 04-11-2012, 08:28 PM
 
Location: Polish Hill, Pittsburgh, PA
30,101 posts, read 67,193,623 times
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Tiger Beer, I really wanted to thank you for sharing the details of your visit! As a former resident of Fairfax County I've found this thread to be quite an interesting read.

Like both you and michgc I, too, had a very difficult time adjusting to the fact that Northern Virginia has a severe dearth of traditional walkable urban centers. Falls Church and Vienna are always championed on this sub-forum for possessing such traits, yet I never found either community to really espouse the ideals of being "walkable communities". Vienna's downtown is more or less a block or two long and is removed from the "main drag", which is very congested and is anything BUT pedestrian-friendly. Route 7/Leesburg Pike is the main drag through Falls Church, and it has a lot of suburban-styled buildings, parking lots, and "gap teeth", all of which make it not very walkable in my book (or at least not walkable enough to justify its exorbitant housing prices).

I don't feel like I can have a good sense of "community" having to hop in my car and drive everywhere in heavy traffic any time I want to socialize, recreate, or otherwise participate in community functions. My inability to reconcile my legitimate need to live in a traditional walkable urban center with NoVA's dearth of such areas on an affordable scale was one of the primary reasons I moved away. People on this sub-forum praise venues like Reston Town Center, but to me as a former Reston resident I found the place to be very bland, generic, and sterile; it felt like it was specifically "manufactured" as an afterthought rather than growing simultaneously along with the community in a more organic fashion the way the older communities in my native Pennsylvania did.

Case in point I now live in a 110-year-old rowhome in a very tight-knit neighborhood in Pittsburgh. A few doors up the hill from me is a small community plaza with a large Evergreen tree that is decorated every year for Christmas in a ceremony with caroling, hot chocolate, and camaraderie. I can grab a cold beer and/or some pierogies a few doors further up the hill at a dive bar or sip a coffee around the corner at a new coffeehouse that is in the same building as a comic books store and a record store. I'm a 10-minute walk from the Strip District, which is replete with all sorts of vendors, artisans, galleries, etc. on the weekends, not to mention some great restaurants, bars, markets, and specialty stores. I can walk Downtown in 35 minutes. Pittsburgh is a prime example of a city that was designed on a more human scale whereas much of suburban Northern Virginia was designed with a strong preference for the automobile with pedestrians---people---being afterthoughts.

There are some things I'll always miss about Northern Virginia. I miss the scenery. When I was facing my worst depression a drive out Route 50 through Middleburg, Paris, The Plains, etc. and then up through Boyce, Berryville, and back down Route 7 to Reston was cathartic. I also loved exploring Winchester and once trekked west all the way to Romney, WV. Shepherdstown, WV; Harper's Ferry, WV; and Burkittsville, MD were some other favored locales. I also loved taking the "back way" to Georgetown via Great Falls and Langley. The diversity---ethnic, racial, cultural, economic, and otherwise---was immense in NoVA, and that's something you don't see in Pittsburgh where we're mostly white, a tad bit black, and only recently (in the past five years) increasingly Asian-American. We have just about every ethnic cuisine you could dream of here, but we typically only have one or two options for each. I miss the fact that recreational amenities, with few exceptions, were FREE! In Pittsburgh I love the zoo, the aquarium, the aviary, the museums, the conservatory, etc., but they're all very expensive, especially to those of us on budgets. I miss the way so many people in NoVA were health-conscious and eco-conscious. At the Giant I always patronized in my North Reston neighborhood seeing people using reusable shopping bags was the norm. Here in Pittsburgh the Giant Eagle grocery stores seem to try to use as many plastic bags as possible, and whenever I DO bring my own reusable bags people look at me like I'm crazy (although I will admit I have seen a surge in hybrid vehicle ownership here over the past year in particular). Pittsburgh has a HUGE obesity epidemic, and nearly everyone here smokes. Contrariwise people in NoVA seemed to care much more about their health, and very few people I knew smoked. Pittsburgh has litter on every corner. There was rarely any litter in my part of Fairfax County.

With that being said for all of NoVA's benefits I was personally never able to reconcile the area's inability to understand what a "walkable community" really was. Vienna and Falls Church aren't it, despite their inflated housing prices. Sorry. Reston? You've got to be kidding me. That place is great if you want to take a leisurely stroll through the woods on a trail, but if you want to just get from Point A to Point B to Point C easily the place sucked. The areas that WERE "walkable" were all insanely expensive. At least in Pittsburgh I don't have to pay dearly to live in a very walkable, hip, safe, and friendly neighborhood with some character and history.

Tiger Beer, it will ultimately be your call if you think the benefits of living in NoVA will far outweigh the area not having any sort of traditional urban centers, but having followed you for years on this forum I'm not certain you'll be happy living in a place like Ashburn, Sterling, Annandale, Springfield, Woodbridge, Fair Oaks, etc.
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Old 04-12-2012, 06:19 AM
 
5,071 posts, read 8,616,501 times
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It seems to me that TB was hoping for a combination of the DC job market, a Pittsburgh aesthetic, and housing prices considerably below what's typical in NoVa. That being the case, if he comes here, South Arlington (at least for now), some parts of Montgomery and Prince George's County and/or Frederick might be his best bets, with occasional trips to NoVa like Falls Church and Annandale for ethnic food.

We really couldn't replicate Pittsburgh here in NoVa, even if we wanted to, and only those who harbor malice toward this region would wish the type of economic turmoil here that Pittsburgh experienced over a period of several decades. The best thing we can do is try to capitalize on our strengths and look for ways to make parts of NoVa more appealing to future generations.

SCR - When you lived in NoVa, you thought people were too concerned with their appearance (remember the "Reston poseur" observations). Maybe that's something to reflect upon now: people who care about how they are perceived care about their appearances. Conversely, maybe some people who are ostensibly "down to earth," in some cases, literally feel stuck in place, with few obvious ways to improve their lives. If that's how people feel, it's more likely they'll care less about their health.
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Old 04-12-2012, 07:28 AM
 
Location: Virginia
18,717 posts, read 26,831,493 times
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Let me start by saying I like both Pittsburgh and northern VA, as those of you who are regulars on city-data know. I have no intention of dissing Pittsburgh, but I'm also a person who does a lot of walking, and has had plenty of opportunity to test out both metro areas for walkability. I disagree with SCR's conclusions. (Which is cool--different strokes for different folks, as they say.)

Instead of arguing, let's look at photos and then everyone can draw their own conclusion. As it happens, SCR also wrote a post last night with a photo of a walkable Pittsburgh neighborhood that he finds particularly attractive, so let's use his post to compare and contrast against photos of Leesburg and Reston Town Center (the two Nova areas he mentioned).

I leave it up to each reader to decide which sidewalks he would rather walk on. And remember, in the end it comes down to personal preference (especially since we are comparing an outer suburb to an inner city; talk about apples and oranges--a better comparison would be Pittsburgh to Old Town Alexandria).

Let's start with Pittsburgh. Here's is the photo from SCR's post from last night.:

http://www.city-data.com/forum/23819113-post16.html

It's a pretty view, but regarding walkability please note:

--The width of the sidewalk and lack of treelawn. Could you push a stroller on that? Would you want to walk with a stroller, and a 3 year old, while cars were zooming by? Cars pass within inches of pedestrians.

--The broken sidewalks. Fine for someone in the 20s, not great for someone pushing a stroller or a shopping cart.

-- The random traffic cone. You also see chairs marking parking spaces. At times you have to walk around these items when they're pushed onto the sidewalk by angry people who park in the spot anyway.

-- The garbage bags. Personally I don't like walking on a street with litter, and garbage bags left in the street like that can attract rodents. Also, if you're walking a dog where does he relieve himself. You don't see the pet waste disposal stations that we have in the Nova burbs (at least I never did. What I did see.... well you can imagine. Not that I saw it all the time but I saw it enough that it stuck in my memory.)

--Imagine this street after a heavy snowfall. Where will the snow plow push the snow?

Now, here are some photos of Reston Town Center. Photos of Leesburg are below, where I discuss the "gap teeth" remark.

http://www.keogan.com/rtcarchitecture0016.jpg (broken link)
These homes, as well as several hundred others, are part of the RTC complex. You can literally live work and play there without having to walk more than a few blocks. Grocery stores and stores like Home Depot and Best Buy are also just a few blocks away, as is a libary and a hospital. It doesn't get much more walkable than Reston Town Center, IMO. But, to each his own.

http://www.keogan.com/rtcarchitecture0082.jpg (broken link)
Or, you can live here and have restaurants and shops without even crossing the street.

http://www.keogan.com/rtcarchitecture0075.jpg (broken link)
Gee, what an unwalkable area Reston Town Center is.....


http://www.keogan.com/rtcarchitecture0057.jpg (broken link)
Could these ladies push these strollers in the photo in SCR's post? Walkability means a street has to be walkable for all people, IMO. Including moms with strollers.


http://www.keogan.com/rtcarchitecture0019.jpg (broken link)
This photo and the one below show the front and back of some homes at Reston Town Center. The front has a sidewalk, the back has a bike path (W&OD) and a parallel walking trail. These homes are two blocks from the center of RTC, so, again, definitely walkable to shops, restaurants, ice skating, hospital, etc.

http://www.keogan.com/rtcarchitecture0021.jpg (broken link)


Instead of writing a book, I'll just post a few more photos. Draw your own conclusions. In the photos of Reston Town Center below, note the greenery, the width of the sidewalks, the benches, the lights, trashcans, and landscaping designed to make walking pleasurable.


http://www.keogan.com/rtcarchitecture0050.jpg (broken link)

http://www.keogan.com/rtcarchitecture0062.jpg (broken link)

http://www.keogan.com/rtcarchitecture0042.jpg (broken link)

http://www.keogan.com/rtcarchitecture0055.jpg (broken link)















To each his own, as they say, but I personally am more comfortable walking in northern VA.


Quote:
Originally Posted by SteelCityRising View Post
it has a lot of suburban-styled buildings, parking lots, and "gap teeth", all of which make it not very walkable in my book
I'm not quite sure what "gap teeth" means here. In Pittsburgh the term refers to row houses where one or more of the units has been torn down, leaving a vacant lot and a rather odd appearance since the buildings on either side do not have side windows and obviously were once part of a set of row houses. Suburban homes have gaps, I guess--we call them side yards. I like the fact that our houses have windows on all sides, letting in plenty of light and air. But, to each his own.

These would be "gap teeth" streets in Leesburg:








Also worth noting is whether or not people actually do walk to work. as most of you know, I'm an example of a person in northern VA who walks to work and frequently picks up groceries or something from Rite Aid on my way home. SCR, on the other hand, drives to work. And he has frequently complained that the stores in his neighborhood are not terribly useful. He has a comic book store, a music store and some bars and coffee shops--fun places but not terribly practical. He has complained that he needs to drive for laundromat, groceries, Chick Fil-A, and other such needs.

OTOH I'll agree that if you want to run down to get a cup of coffee, you're more likely to walk a shorter distance in SCR's neighborhood in Pittsburgh than if you live in Reston Town Center or downtown Leesburg. You may have to walk a block or two in RTC/Leesburg. Maybe even 3-4 blocks. In my neighborhood I have to walk about a 1/2 mile to get to a coffee shop. Of course, once I get there I have a choice between several places in the particular shopping plaza I go to, but I do have to walk a bit to get there. Fortunately, my walk is along this attractive and comfrotable route, so it seems very pleasant and walkable to me

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Old 04-12-2012, 07:57 AM
 
Location: The Port City is rising.
8,771 posts, read 10,674,733 times
Reputation: 2498
Quote:
Originally Posted by JEB77 View Post
We really couldn't replicate Pittsburgh here in NoVa, even if we wanted to,.

perhaps not, but if we had a very high speed train from baltimore to downtown DC we'd have gotten the best of both worlds, at least from my POV - not saying if thats feasible or not
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Old 04-12-2012, 08:03 AM
 
Location: The Port City is rising.
8,771 posts, read 10,674,733 times
Reputation: 2498
@caladium

I think SCR stated in the post above that the problem with RTC is its price, more than its appearance.

I realize that getting full shopping options available in the central city can be challenging, after decades of disinvestment. Walkable streets are naturally more desirable for services and sales of small items, than for large things where convenient parking is more important. That said, places like downtown DC are rapidly aquiring supermarkets, etc, but they have had much more investment than Pittsburgh.

As for kvetching about Chik fil A, i find that odd - for one they arent that common in the suburbs (youd have to go a considerable way from Annandale to find one, Im pretty sure) and I THOUGHT SCR was gay - perhaps he is unaware of this

Chick-fil-A - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Old 04-12-2012, 08:08 AM
 
5,071 posts, read 8,616,501 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brooklynborndad View Post
perhaps not, but if we had a very high speed train from baltimore to downtown DC we'd have gotten the best of both worlds, at least from my POV - not saying if thats feasible or not
That would be cool. One city where everyone wants to be called "Hon" and another where everyone wants to be called "your Honor"! Though I don't think TB is as big a Baltimore fan as you are.
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Old 04-12-2012, 08:13 AM
 
Location: Fairfax County
1,534 posts, read 3,315,521 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brooklynborndad View Post
As for kvetching about Chik fil A, i find that odd - for one they arent that common in the suburbs (youd have to go a considerable way from Annandale to find one, Im pretty sure)
Closest Chick-fil-a locations to Annandale are Fairfax Circle (with the drive-thru), Landmark Mall and Ballston, with the new Chick-fil-a in Falls Church at Seven Corners. Not sure if I would characterize those locations as "a considerable way from Annandale" as I would think it would depend upon one's mode of transportation. (I ride my bike from-to most of the locations fairly frequently. But I don't walk there. I certainly drive there.)
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