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Old 02-26-2013, 08:21 AM
 
Location: Monmouth County, NJ & Staten Island, NY
407 posts, read 407,708 times
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First, I'd like to say that I'm not looking to start a discussion on ideas related to the "sustainability" or future of these style of developments. I've heard all of the peak oil, "cars are inefficient", rising fuel prices, global warming arguments already. I don't want this to be a discussion on those topics, but rather a discussion about the aesthetics and usability of "big box" stores, "cookie cutter" homes, wide arterial "stroads" or large (and awesome, IMO) stacked freeway interchanges.

Many folks on here bemoan about these types of places using an argument similar to what I've heard from Jim Kunstler, stating that these are places "not worth caring about", that they don't evoke some kind of positive emotion or that any sane person would find them completely deplorable in every sense just by merely using, looking at or interacting with them. Keep in mind, this is entirely a matter of opinion, and I'm just stating my opinion that: these places are not so inherently "bad" as some folks feel the need to push as a fact. I will use some examples from two places I've picked at random: suburban Phoenix, Arizona and downtown Brooklyn in NYC. Both places have their own aesthetic style, both places evoke emotions in certain people and in both places, a lot of people have no problem with the environment that their lifestyle entails.

For example:
Some people would find this to be the optimal place that they'd like to shop: (copy&paste)" Google Maps "
While ideally, some people would prefer their shopping experience to be here: (copy&paste)" Google Maps "

Now, it's important to note that I'm NOT asking to discuss which one is more "sustainable", people have their viewpoints on that and that's fine. I'm talking about the viewpoint of what people call "livable". I don't understand how either one of these places is more "livable" than the other... What's amazing about the United States, is that we have so many types of environments that we can live in, I don't see how anyone can bash someone for not having good taste for wanting to shop at the Phoenix-style location versus the urban Brooklyn-style location. I think that they're both awesome in their own rights, and while I would greatly prefer the Phoenix lifestyle, I can totally understand why someone would enjoy walking to shop in Brooklyn. I just don't understand the whole idea that someone is "wrong" for thinking the Phoenix setup is actually quite nice and aesthetically pleasing. Maybe it's just my bias, I love driving pretty much everywhere so convenient parking is a plus, and I love cars so I actually enjoy walking through large parking lots (never had a problem with getting hit either ).

When it comes to housing, I feel the exact same way.

Some people would LOVE to be able to live in a "vibrant" place like this: (copy&paste)" Google Maps " or even maybe somewhere like this: (copy&paste)" Google Maps "

On the other hand, there are those who find the density, crowdedness, noise and other lifestyle factors to be a huge negative, and they prefer to live somewhere like this: (copy&paste)" Google Maps " or, somewhere like this: (copy&paste)" Google Maps "

I think that they're both wonderful places to live, they both look stunning and a lot of people who live in both types of developments really love where they live. They don't care about terms like "cookie cutter", because they have a home that they love. Of course, I could be cherry-picking what I find to be nice examples...I bet you could find some not so nice examples in both lifestyles as well... for Brooklyn: (copy&paste)" Google Maps " and from Phoenix: (copy&paste)" Google Maps "

Though there are probably plenty of people who live in the last two places who absolutely love where they live, and there's nothing wrong with that...in my opinion they'd not be on be high on the desirability scale for those who could afford elsewhere. Again, this is not about "sustainability", or auto vs walking/transit centric...some folks like to drive, some folks like to walk. This is about the aesthetics and style, I don't see a problem with either one...beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some people like the hustle and bustle of a vibrant and lively urban community, riding trains and buses, random encounters with strangers all day and a general crowded atmosphere. On the other hand, some people prefer more control of their interactions and transportation, quieter suburban neighborhoods with bigger homes, more parking, larger garages (I actually LOVE attached two car garages) and even mowing the lawn lol. I don't see why it's anyone's business to tell someone that they live in an "ugly" place just because it's suburban or urban..people have opinions and desires in this country, and thankfully we build places for those people. Deal with it.
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Old 02-26-2013, 10:08 AM
 
Location: Pasadena, CA
10,087 posts, read 13,113,739 times
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So I read the post and copy and pasted the links...

I agree with everything you said. My opinion is "to each his own".

I guess I would prefer if the big-box / large strip mall layout had the buildings closer to the street with parking in the rear. Personally that would be more aesthetically pleasing.

One thing I see in the LA area is the big box stores at the back of the parking lot but a handful of shops that are set right on the street. Gives it a little bit of a more pleasing look in my opinion.
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Old 02-26-2013, 10:08 AM
 
Location: Hong Kong
1,329 posts, read 873,136 times
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Cannot really comment, without SEEING what you are talking about

Personally, I like Light and Views ... (as well as walkability)

Fot shopping, London's hard to beat for outdoor shopping



But it is too successful, and hence very crowded
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Old 02-26-2013, 10:58 AM
nei nei won $500 in our forum's Most Engaging Poster Contest - Thirteenth Edition (Jan-Feb 2015). 

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Location: Long Island / NYC
45,990 posts, read 41,979,923 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KeepRightPassLeft View Post
I don't see why it's anyone's business to tell someone that they live in an "ugly" place just because it's suburban or urban..people have opinions and desires in this country, and thankfully we build places for those people. Deal with it.
It's an internet forum. I'll whatever place I want ugly. Deal with it.

And it does seem like there's far more suburban style construction than urban ones.

As to which has better aesthetics, for residential neighborhood I'll say suburban construction (lower density, usually newer) tends not to ugly, generally inoffensive or usually a bit nice looking but boring. Urban construction is often more interesting but more varied, many rather ugly "interestingly ugly", some very nice looking. It does seem like with higher building density it's easier for a spot to become ugly, perhaps because there's less open green space to take the edge off any ugliness.

As for commercial development, newer suburban construction is almost always uglier and more boring. These have more aesthetics to them:







(last one I can imagine some will find ugly, but I think it's at least interesting)

than newer strip mall or big box construction:

https://maps.google.com/maps?q=stop+...56.17,,0,-0.52

https://maps.google.com/maps?q=Model...62.84,,0,-2.07
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Old 02-26-2013, 11:15 AM
 
Location: Monmouth County, NJ & Staten Island, NY
407 posts, read 407,708 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by munchitup View Post
I guess I would prefer if the big-box / large strip mall layout had the buildings closer to the street with parking in the rear. Personally that would be more aesthetically pleasing.

One thing I see in the LA area is the big box stores at the back of the parking lot but a handful of shops that are set right on the street. Gives it a little bit of a more pleasing look in my opinion.
I think that this all depends on the street/road that the businesses are facing, and also the layout of the area too. There are some places where on a smaller, but through street in a more urbanized area, I can see the theory behind why one would prefer the buildings are right up front against the street, especially if a good percentage of people are walking to the particular business. But I also feel that in many suburban, especially exurban and rural areas, having the parking first just makes more sense. This is especially true if the road is a wide, busy arterial, as it's nice to have businesses set back a decent distance by parking lots to lessen the impact of road noise inside. It all depends on the environment, specifically the type of street you're facing.

Example of parking in the back: Google Maps

This building replaced a one story strip of stores also built along the sidewalk, with no parking in the rear. It's in an area with decent traffic, however not what I would call a huge through arterial. Also, a lot of transit riders and pedestrians in the area with at least 10 local and express bus routes and an adjacent train station, so it accommodates everyone nicely. I almost always drive there, and there is plenty of free parking in the lot behind the building, and though not every business has a rear door that one can use, it's a short walk up front which isn't a bad compromise given the location.

Example of parking in the front: Google Maps

This plaza faces a 10 lade wide major arterial (actually the same road as above, however much wider and a few miles further north). I think it works much better that it's set back, especially for the restaurants here, because road noise on Richmond Avenue is quite loud (lots of trucks headed to Brooklyn too). Whats nice about this plaza, though, is the L-shaped nature of it....the corner of the L is actually a major MTA bus depot with many bus routes stopping there, and is an extremely easy walk into the plaza without having to cross the parking lot.
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Old 02-26-2013, 11:17 AM
 
Location: Monmouth County, NJ & Staten Island, NY
407 posts, read 407,708 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Geologic View Post
Cannot really comment, without SEEING what you are talking about
I cannot currently post links due to my status as a newer member, something to do with post counts. Copy and pasting should work fine with the shortened URLs.

I think the idea of walkability and density have much to do with personal feeling and opinions, and I think the most beneficial thing is for like-minded people to get together to help create more of these places, if the demand is truly there.
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Old 02-26-2013, 11:23 AM
 
Location: Monmouth County, NJ & Staten Island, NY
407 posts, read 407,708 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nei View Post
It's an internet forum. I'll whatever place I want ugly. Deal with it.
Ah, but of course.. to each their own.

Quote:
As to which has better aesthetics, for residential neighborhood I'll say suburban construction (lower density, usually newer) tends not to ugly, generally inoffensive or usually a bit nice looking but boring. Urban construction is often more interesting but more varied, many rather ugly "interestingly ugly", some very nice looking. It does seem like with higher building density it's easier for a spot to become ugly, perhaps because there's less open green space to take the edge off any ugliness.
I agree, that due to the higher building density, blight may appear more obvious off the bat (broken windows theory, etc). There are some quite run-down and blighted suburban neighborhoods I've seen myself as well, you might just have to give a little deeper look at the facade of the area to see this kind of blight, as looks can be deceiving.

Quote:
As for commercial development, newer suburban construction is almost always uglier and more boring. These have more aesthetics to them:

(last one I can imagine some will find ugly, but I think it's at least interesting)

than newer strip mall or big box construction:

*links removed for quote*
See, the urban areas you've posted are actually quite cool looking...but, I also find the Stop and Shop (and similar newer suburban commercial development) to be comfortable, aesthetically pleasing and a pleasure to shop in myself. I think it's a matter of opinion of course, but I just don't think an area's auto-centricity automatically wipes an area out from being an enjoyable, "livable" place that many people enjoy (not that I feel you're saying this in particular).

Last edited by KeepRightPassLeft; 02-26-2013 at 11:25 AM.. Reason: Left a piece of quote in my post without using the tags
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Old 02-26-2013, 11:42 AM
 
Location: Pasadena, CA
10,087 posts, read 13,113,739 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KeepRightPassLeft View Post
I think that this all depends on the street/road that the businesses are facing, and also the layout of the area too. There are some places where on a smaller, but through street in a more urbanized area, I can see the theory behind why one would prefer the buildings are right up front against the street, especially if a good percentage of people are walking to the particular business. But I also feel that in many suburban, especially exurban and rural areas, having the parking first just makes more sense. This is especially true if the road is a wide, busy arterial, as it's nice to have businesses set back a decent distance by parking lots to lessen the impact of road noise inside. It all depends on the environment, specifically the type of street you're facing.

Example of parking in the back: Google Maps

This building replaced a one story strip of stores also built along the sidewalk, with no parking in the rear. It's in an area with decent traffic, however not what I would call a huge through arterial. Also, a lot of transit riders and pedestrians in the area with at least 10 local and express bus routes and an adjacent train station, so it accommodates everyone nicely. I almost always drive there, and there is plenty of free parking in the lot behind the building, and though not every business has a rear door that one can use, it's a short walk up front which isn't a bad compromise given the location.

Example of parking in the front: Google Maps

This plaza faces a 10 lade wide major arterial (actually the same road as above, however much wider and a few miles further north). I think it works much better that it's set back, especially for the restaurants here, because road noise on Richmond Avenue is quite loud (lots of trucks headed to Brooklyn too). Whats nice about this plaza, though, is the L-shaped nature of it....the corner of the L is actually a major MTA bus depot with many bus routes stopping there, and is an extremely easy walk into the plaza without having to cross the parking lot.
Good point about noise impact.

However a big problem I have with those huge parking lots with the shops set 100+ yards back is how difficult it is to see what is in the shopping center! Some of them have big signs with all of the businesses, but often they do not. If it was at least a little closer to the street maybe you could see what was actually in the center.
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Old 02-26-2013, 11:53 AM
 
Location: Monmouth County, NJ & Staten Island, NY
407 posts, read 407,708 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by munchitup View Post
Good point about noise impact.

However a big problem I have with those huge parking lots with the shops set 100+ yards back is how difficult it is to see what is in the shopping center! Some of them have big signs with all of the businesses, but often they do not. If it was at least a little closer to the street maybe you could see what was actually in the center.
I can definitely agree with that... I think poor signage for motorists is bad business anywhere. I know that a Dunkin Donuts closed down due to lack of business in my neighborhood a few years ago, because it was a small storefront set back with parking up front, surrounded by store fronts up against the street and that nobody passing by it knew it was there (heard this from the owner, as my friend worked there). And this is on Staten Island, a 102 square mile island of half a million people with over 30 Dunkin Donuts locations already, so believe me, there's always demand, lol

The dunkin: Google Maps (it was back there in where that parking lot is)


Good businesses always let know know that they're there...good example would be this one only one plaza away from the one I posted above: Google Maps
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Old 02-26-2013, 11:56 AM
 
Location: North Baltimore ----> Seattle
6,473 posts, read 11,104,114 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KeepRightPassLeft View Post
I just don't think an area's auto-centricity automatically wipes an area out from being an enjoyable, "livable" place that many people enjoy (not that I feel you're saying this in particular).
Well, it does if you don't want to or can't drive.
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