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Old 03-04-2013, 09:11 AM
 
Location: Monmouth County, NJ & Staten Island, NY
407 posts, read 407,601 times
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This past weekend, I was able to experience the reality that not every suburban area is some "strip mall wasteland" as people like to make it seem. What I'm talking has to do with the mix of auto-centric suburbs and "streetcar suburbs" or even former small towns enveloped by suburbia.This is something I always knew, however it is nice to experience it as well.

I know some folks will step in and talk about how the New Jersey example is unique due to it's age and proximity to transit and New York, and that it is rare in United States suburbia, however my research of many major cities suburbs and surrounding metropolitan areas have suggested that there's a lot more opportunities for experiences like this all over the country. Even if the local small town is struggling or desolate, there are always opportunities for people who care to bring them back up, and if not, one always has the option of relocating somewhere closer to a place like this. That being said, while the authenticity and "charm" might not be the same to everyone, I also find the trend of "lifestyle centers" or essentially outdoor "walkable" shopping malls/retail centers also mimic this experience and can be a pleasure for some hanging out, leisure shopping or whatever else you need.

What I like best about places like that is that I find that they are cool places to visit when you're in the mood to hang out, have a relaxing dinner, walk around a variety of diverse stores and do some leisure shopping. I also like the fact that while it has its walkable charm, its easily and cheaply accessible by car so a huge range of people can access it who live in neighborhoods all around. The greatest part though, IMO, is how only a few miles away, is a strip of auto-centric development which is set up for ease of use and convenience for people living in a large, suburban environment and made for being able to run errands quickly.

Older Development example: Downtown Westfield, Westfield, New Jersey Google Maps

Small town charm, lots of interesting stores and a nice place for a relaxing night like I had described above. This past weekend, my girlfriend and I had parked my car in a municipal lot for about $1.50 (for a few hours), grabbed dinner at Chipoltle, walked around to some stores she wanted to look at, and then hung out in a coffee shop for a little while before heading home.

Newer Development example: Watchung Square Shopping Plaza, Watchung, New Jersey Google Maps

Huge shopping plaza with Walmart, Target, Home Depot and several other large and small stores. Between this and neighboring shopping plazas, I can get pretty much any necessities here very quickly, easily and cheaply. This isn't a place we'd walk around for leisure shopping, though we may do that sometimes in Target for fun. This place is built to serve a lot of people from a huge area who don't want to live next door to stores, and I believe it also serves just as much of a purpose as the Westfield example. I have no issue going to either place, however they serve different needs for me depending on what I want/need. If I'm looking to go hang out and walk around people, find eclectic random little shops and have an iced coffee from a small coffee shop, I may go to Westfield. If I need to pick up a tool at Home Depot for a project, or an HDMI cable for my TV at Best Buy or Walmart or anything else I just need to get done shopping-wise, the strip malls are an easy and convenient way to do it.

I also don't find that it's just a northeast thing, and that it's possible in more places than people think. For example I'll use the eastern suburbs of Cincinnati, Ohio where I was working over the summer.

Want that small town, "urban", walkable experience with the weird shops and coffee place? Main Street, downtown Milford, Ohio Cincinnati, OH - Google Maps

Need to pick something up quickly or run errands? Nice big strip mall for convenience, when I don't want to worry about finding parking, having to walk from my house in poor weather or whatever else. Cincinnati, OH - Google Maps

I think in many suburban areas in the United States, if people want to have both, they will do what they can to preserve and have both.
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Old 03-04-2013, 09:26 AM
 
Location: Hong Kong
1,329 posts, read 872,851 times
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Okay, I think I get it.

You want access - by car - to both of those:

+ Small town charm, lots of interesting stores and a nice place for a relaxing
+ Huge shopping plaza with Walmart, Target, Home Depot

Can you give a few comments about what is making each of those viable?

How much is the first one reliable on the cars flowing in, and how much is the second?

If you prefer not to answer my question, that's fine. But my mind immediately wants to "unpack" those two commercial arrangements, and understand what makes them tick
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Old 03-04-2013, 09:37 AM
 
Location: Monmouth County, NJ & Staten Island, NY
407 posts, read 407,601 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Geologic View Post
Okay, I think I get it.

You want access - by car - to both of those:

+ Small town charm, lots of interesting stores and a nice place for a relaxing
+ Huge shopping plaza with Walmart, Target, Home Depot

Can you give a few comments about what is making each of those viable?

How much is the first one reliable on the cars flowing in, and how much is the second?

If you prefer not to answer my question, that's fine. But my mind immediately wants to "unpack" those two commercial arrangements, and understand what makes them tick

I think that they are both viable because they serve different purposes to people. Small towns and walkable areas do have a certain charm to them (which I personally also feel a lot of strip malls have but that's my own opinion) that people like, and that they enjoy this for a relaxing night out, eclectic shops, coffee shops and upscale retail. Kind of like catering to peoples wants, maybe some needs. I find that the majority of car-centric strip malls are built around automotive efficiency, convenience and people's needs. When I go to the supermarket, I like that there is a huge free parking lot outside, so I don't have to think about it. I just pick a spot, buy however much stuff I feel like buying and then pull in my driveway or garage and it's done. No walking in bad weather with a little wheeled cart, no waiting for a delivery service, just the way I want to do it...on my own, with my car and head back home....away from the commercial areas. If I was in the mood to hang out with a few friends or my girlfriend in a coffee shop, I might feel more inclined to head to a place like Westfield, pay the few bucks for parking and walk around. I would not want to have to rely on places like Westfield for all of my shopping needs, as it would just seem more inconvenient to me. I like that stores I really don't want to have to go to but need things from are made for convenience, having lots of free parking right outside the door. There are a LOT of exceptions to this of course, some really awesome restaurants are in suburban developments, some small town type areas have free parking and convenient "needs" shopping like the nearby town of Scotch Plains, NJ. Hell, I spend a lot of time hanging out with my friends at the local Dunkin Donuts late at night (drive thru only) just hanging out in or outside around our cars.
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Old 03-04-2013, 09:53 AM
 
Location: Hong Kong
1,329 posts, read 872,851 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KeepRightPassLeft View Post
... I find that the majority of car-centric strip malls are built around automotive efficiency, convenience and people's needs. When I go to the supermarket, I like that there is a huge free parking lot outside, so I don't have to think about it. I just pick a spot, buy however much stuff I feel like buying and then pull in my driveway or garage and it's done.
. . .
I like that stores I really don't want to have to go to but need things from are made for convenience, having lots of free parking right outside the door...
I understand you like convenience... and free parking.
Why do you suppose so many Malls are closing across America?
(And so few new ones are being built?)
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Old 03-04-2013, 11:10 AM
 
5,691 posts, read 8,760,259 times
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I think malls are closing because they combine the sterility of big box "needs" stores, but sometimes they'll have the inconvenient parking you find in a downtown.

Also, as small town downtowns are revitalizing and building parking garages, leisure type customers prefer their ambience to the mall. It's partly just a matter of fashion, but the parking garages help. It is nice to be able to make plans to meet a friend downtown and know that you are guaranteed of finding a place, even if it is on the fifth floor of a parking garage.

It's ironic that the malls killed downtown and now the opposite is happening. Well not kill maybe, but "injure". A lot of people still want the mall walking experience and parents may prefer to drop their teens off in a controlled environment.
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Old 03-04-2013, 11:27 AM
 
2,923 posts, read 3,118,048 times
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Malls are dying a slow death as a result of better prices on the internet resulting from less overhead and more efficient business models. Nothing to do with urbanism.
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Old 03-04-2013, 12:10 PM
 
Location: Monmouth County, NJ & Staten Island, NY
407 posts, read 407,601 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Geologic View Post
I understand you like convenience... and free parking.
Why do you suppose so many Malls are closing across America?
(And so few new ones are being built?)
I feel that many (not all) malls are closing because trends change. Just because an indoor shopping mall or an old strip mall close down, does not mean that they are being replaced or should be replaced by facilities without easy, free parking. If they want to build transit alongside it or run some bus lines to the complex, that's fine, but a huge portion of this country simply prefers the living environment where the car is the most convenient means of travel. I don't see an issue if a shopping mall closes down for a new "lifestyle center", which is essentially the same thing...as shopping malls sort of try to mimic that whole leisure shopping, small town ambiance. I happen to like shopping malls, because I hate shopping and I prefer the times where I have to go there to buy something, it's nice to have an indoor, climate controlled, weather-proof building with lots of free parking that I can take care of my business.

Quote:
Originally Posted by creeksitter View Post
I think malls are closing because they combine the sterility of big box "needs" stores, but sometimes they'll have the inconvenient parking you find in a downtown.

Also, as small town downtowns are revitalizing and building parking garages, leisure type customers prefer their ambience to the mall. It's partly just a matter of fashion, but the parking garages help. It is nice to be able to make plans to meet a friend downtown and know that you are guaranteed of finding a place, even if it is on the fifth floor of a parking garage.

It's ironic that the malls killed downtown and now the opposite is happening. Well not kill maybe, but "injure". A lot of people still want the mall walking experience and parents may prefer to drop their teens off in a controlled environment.
I agree with this a lot, and I think that to remain competitive in the suburban realm, small towns can compete with free or inexpensive parking to entice people to come. Westfield for example has a diesel commuter rail line through its center, which is mainly used as a park and ride for area residents, and a few local bus lines running through...but the majority of people will just be driving there. If I knew that going to Westfield meant that I would have to drive around looking for parking, or have to pay some ridiculous overcharged fee like $20 (maybe in Manhattan, not somewhere like this) I would truly reconsider going and just take my business elsewhere...something that I think a lot of people do. Westfield does it right by providing an abundance of surface parking behind all of the stores for $0.25 per 30 minutes until 7pm, which allows me to easily drive and park there, and then walk around and enjoy the place.

If it was a little more crowded, like nearby Cranford, they could also get away with a similarly priced parking structure tucked away behind the buildings which also allows for this convenience. Cranford is pretty cool, because in a place like one of these towns, you could even go all "mixed-use" and accommodate everyone...even a certain someone on this forum's favorite idea of building housing + retail next to the train station...without unnecessary high-rises and without making motorist's lives difficult...like this mixed use building with a cheap parking garage in the back! Google Maps

Another really cool example in New Jersey is Pier Village in Long Branch, which built a mixed-use development on the beachfront with pricey units for people who like living on the ocean front, neat (but a tad expensive) shops and restaurants on the first floor, and a huge parking garage in the "core" of the structure. I usually go here a lot in the summer, and I find it very convenient to be able to pay $5 all day to park in the garage, hang out on the beach, put the beach stuff back in the car and clean up, and then have dinner right there before getting back to the car and going home. Building this kind of stuff has it's place, and it doesn't necessarily need mass transit OR inconveniencing drivers to make it a nice place. I also don't feel, as some do, that we need to replace all of suburbia with stuff like this, but hey if there is a demand and want for it in certain communities, developers should seize the opportunity.

Long Branch Pier Village (garage is on the side street to the left) Google Maps

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wilton2ParkAve View Post
Malls are dying a slow death as a result of better prices on the internet resulting from less overhead and more efficient business models. Nothing to do with urbanism.
I agree that this has a huge impact as well. People do like instant gratification, and that's why Best Buy can sell HDMI cables for $40 when you can get them on newegg.com for $3...if you don't mind waiting for it to ship. For me it depends on what I need, how much of it I need and how soon I need it. That being said, I do purchase a lot of things online.
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Old 03-04-2013, 01:54 PM
 
5,691 posts, read 8,760,259 times
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Our city owned parking garages are free if you arive after 6 or leave after 8.

I think this has contributed a lot to the urban vitality, especially in the evenings. Yours is a good point about needs vs wants - downtown is a place to go for the wants, mainly dining, entertainment and recreational shopping. Sometimes I'll wind up buying a "need", like for me a new winter coat, or local honey at the small produce market.
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Old 03-04-2013, 02:39 PM
 
Location: plano
6,569 posts, read 8,103,218 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wilton2ParkAve View Post
Malls are dying a slow death as a result of better prices on the internet resulting from less overhead and more efficient business models. Nothing to do with urbanism.
Brick and mortar shopping is too expensive compared to online. Something we need to see to buy so there will be some brick and mortar but between the internet and the bad economy we have and will for some time, malls will continue to fold and close. I'd hate to be an architect in this sector.

If someone wants to see old and new co exist, Houston is a place where that happens often due to the lack of zoning rules that slow the pace of change and transition in areas.
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Old 03-04-2013, 02:40 PM
 
Location: Monmouth County, NJ & Staten Island, NY
407 posts, read 407,601 times
Reputation: 661
Quote:
Originally Posted by creeksitter View Post
Our city owned parking garages are free if you arive after 6 or leave after 8.

I think this has contributed a lot to the urban vitality, especially in the evenings. Yours is a good point about needs vs wants - downtown is a place to go for the wants, mainly dining, entertainment and recreational shopping. Sometimes I'll wind up buying a "need", like for me a new winter coat, or local honey at the small produce market.
That's a pretty good deal, I'd imagine it attracts a nice crowd of people from both suburbs and the city itself to that evening "nightlife". I think the "wants" vs "needs" makes a lot of sense in this case, since people who could otherwise take care of their business at convenient strip malls, shopping malls and big box stores find themselves looking for something a little more laid back and recreational than that. For example, Walmart is a good place to conveniently buy just about anything you need, you don't even have to think about parking (unless maybe its on Black Friday lol) and its always there, usually 24/7, when you need it. But if you're looking to take a leisure walk around, eat at a nice restaurant, get some ice cream or coffee afterwards and hang out friends, significant others or family for a while, the small town arrangement works.....so long as you can provide decent parking for people to get there. Realistically in the United States, the majority of people are not going to be taking mass transit to these places, nor do they have the density to support such a system. And trying to somehow "encourage" it by ripping people off on the parking doesn't help business at all, it makes people decide to take their business elsewhere.
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