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Old 01-14-2014, 10:26 PM
 
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I've heard it's due to the way zoning laws work in the states, but this concept always confused me.

Why don't more suburbs have a shopping small or store area within? It seems logical to have a central area with good walkability and entertainment. I can understand why somebody wouldn't want a gas station next door but a mini- down town area would be pretty acceptable I think.
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Old 01-15-2014, 01:27 AM
 
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Depends on the burb and when/how it was built. With the invention of the car Walkability became optional for burbs. Also the invention of the indoor shoping mall reduced the need for a downtown area and some burbs don't need to have much of any retail at all.
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Old 01-15-2014, 06:55 AM
 
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I live in city with 2 huge business districts that are within the suburbs. These are in addition to the uptown business district. One has been around for decades and the other has been developed within the last 10 -12 years. Both of these areas have shopping, dining and large office buildings as well.

Perhaps the zoning in my city is different from others, but I'm hard pressed to think of a suburban area that doesn't have a shopping area in close proximity. I live in the burbs and have 2 shopping centers I can easily walk to. Between the 2 I have: Public library, public greenway, 2 grocery stores, 8 restaurants, 1 bank, 2 drug stores, 2 UPS stores, 2 coffee place, 3 hair/nail salons, 1 pet store, 1 vets office, 2 yogurt shops and assorted retail.
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Old 01-15-2014, 06:56 AM
Status: "Summer!" (set 25 days ago)
 
Location: Foot of the Rockies
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To answer the thread title: Because they do! Any thread that starts out "why" begs the question.
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Old 01-15-2014, 09:09 AM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Morningside)
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If you mean, why aren't new walkable business districts built (as opposed to the long-standing ones which were "grandfathered in") very often, there are a few reasons.

1. Suburban zoning generally requires substantial new parking minimums for any commercial structure. The easiest way to deal with these is to put a surface parking lot in front of a commercial structure. Garages are expensive, and hidden rear parking, while doable, often requires design changes which allow entering a building from both sides.

2. Suburban zoning also generally requires uniform setback from the street, in order to allow for the possibility of future road widening. Again, this sort of cuts against the traditional "downtown" feel which commercial buildings directly on the street front provide for. Again, rather than use all this area as a commercial "lawn" the most sensible thing is to put parking there.

3. Even if you could deal with the above issues (basically making something like a "lifestyle center" but with the storefronts on an existing public street) you'd have the issue getting people to go. If you surround it with a parking moat, few no will walk to it. Even if you do not, suburban areas which are largely detached single-family housing will have too low of a population density for more than a few hundred people (at most) to walk to said storefronts.

The only way around the issues outlined are the "new urbanist" developments they're doing in certain parts of the country, like Denver suburbs. They start with a very large footprint (like an outdated shopping mall) and use it to construct a mixed-use "neighborhood" which contains both retail and townhouses. This builds a relatively dense captive audience who can walk to the commercial area, which is supplemented by people driving in and using the (still extensive) semi-hidden parking structures.
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Old 01-15-2014, 11:16 AM
Status: "Summer!" (set 25 days ago)
 
Location: Foot of the Rockies
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eschaton View Post
If you mean, why aren't new walkable business districts built (as opposed to the long-standing ones which were "grandfathered in") very often, there are a few reasons.

1. Suburban zoning generally requires substantial new parking minimums for any commercial structure. The easiest way to deal with these is to put a surface parking lot in front of a commercial structure. Garages are expensive, and hidden rear parking, while doable, often requires design changes which allow entering a building from both sides.

2. Suburban zoning also generally requires uniform setback from the street, in order to allow for the possibility of future road widening. Again, this sort of cuts against the traditional "downtown" feel which commercial buildings directly on the street front provide for. Again, rather than use all this area as a commercial "lawn" the most sensible thing is to put parking there.

3. Even if you could deal with the above issues (basically making something like a "lifestyle center" but with the storefronts on an existing public street) you'd have the issue getting people to go. If you surround it with a parking moat, few no will walk to it. Even if you do not, suburban areas which are largely detached single-family housing will have too low of a population density for more than a few hundred people (at most) to walk to said storefronts.

The only way around the issues outlined are the "new urbanist" developments they're doing in certain parts of the country, like Denver suburbs. They start with a very large footprint (like an outdated shopping mall) and use it to construct a mixed-use "neighborhood" which contains both retail and townhouses. This builds a relatively dense captive audience who can walk to the commercial area, which is supplemented by people driving in and using the (still extensive) semi-hidden parking structures.
For starts, it is NOT true that suburbs don't have business areas. It's these type of questions that make some of us wonder if the people who post them have ever been in a suburb. It isn't even true that new shopping areas aren't being built. http://www.dailycamera.com/superior-...er-underway-at

1. Please post some actual examples. "Substantial" can mean just about anything. I believe that there are different criteria for different types of businesses. Businesses that don't serve customers directly, e.g. engineering offices for one example, have different requirements from retail. I think businesses like beauty shops and doctor's offices have different requirements as well.

2. I have never heard this "uniform setback for road widening" line before. And if you go to any downtown, the stores there have a uniform setback as well, at least in most places.

3. That's ass*uming the OP Is referring to business districts where everyone walks. That's not true, even in "the city".

What do you mean "semi-hidden" parking structures? It's kind of hard to hide a parking garage. IIRC, Belmar in Lakewood has parking garages, but they're certainly not "hidden".
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Old 01-15-2014, 11:29 AM
 
Location: East of the Sun, West of the Moon
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Every suburb where I grew up started as a village so have a center with shops and such. Some of the more recenty developed parts of the area are more distant, but have a more exurban character rather than the packed in cookie-cutter type of suburb more common in the South and West.
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Old 01-15-2014, 12:02 PM
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Location: Long Island / NYC
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It might help if the OP gave examples of what he's referring to.
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Old 01-15-2014, 12:06 PM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Morningside)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Katiana View Post
For starts, it is NOT true that suburbs don't have business areas. It's these type of questions that make some of us wonder if the people who post them have ever been in a suburb. It isn't even true that new shopping areas aren't being built. After years of waiting, Superior Town Center under way at McCaslin and U.S. 36 - Boulder Daily Camera

1. Please post some actual examples. "Substantial" can mean just about anything. I believe that there are different criteria for different types of businesses. Businesses that don't serve customers directly, e.g. engineering offices for one example, have different requirements from retail. I think businesses like beauty shops and doctor's offices have different requirements as well.

2. I have never heard this "uniform setback for road widening" line before. And if you go to any downtown, the stores there have a uniform setback as well, at least in most places.

3. That's ass*uming the OP Is referring to business districts where everyone walks. That's not true, even in "the city".

What do you mean "semi-hidden" parking structures? It's kind of hard to hide a parking garage. IIRC, Belmar in Lakewood has parking garages, but they're certainly not "hidden".
In case you didn't read my post, I did say "very often" and I gave credit to the Denver area as actually doing the kind of new development (where dense housing is built at the same time as town centers) that's needed to make it work.

Regarding your responses in general:

1. Here's parking minimums from Houston though, which is fabled for not having zoning. Depending upon the type of business, two to five spaces per thousand square feet are required. For anything but the smallest businesses, this would pretty much require having an off-street lot. I'm not going to find dozens of examples though, you're equally able to find citations.

2. Setbacks are not uniform across all municipalities of course, but they are generally set in building code. Most downtowns with zero setback predated modern zoning codes, although now new downtowns with zero setback are being built in places. Regarding road widening, here's an old article about Saint Louis which discusses it.

3. The OP specifically said "central areas with good walkability." As I said, I presumed he meant a walkable town center type development, because most suburbs do have commercial districts, it's just many lack walkable ones unless they were developed before strip malls took off.
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Old 01-15-2014, 12:23 PM
Status: "Summer!" (set 25 days ago)
 
Location: Foot of the Rockies
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I don't know what GFA stands for in the Houston code. I looked it up, found everything from Gospel Foundation for Asia, Guitar Foundation of America, Gospel Fellowship Association, and Gliding Federation of Australia, but nothing that spoke to buildings. However, those codes don't look excessive. Since you brought it up, you should be the one to find the cites.

A road widening project in 1947 in St. Louis city does not mean it is ubiquitous in the suburbs in 2014.

Many strip malls are quite walkable for the people living nearby. In fact, they may be more walkable than going downtown.

Here on the main page of the website for my suburban city, you can see that the buildings are all set back uniformly. Some of these buildings have been around since the city was founded in 1878. IIRC, the buildings in downtown Beaver Falls, my hometown, are also set back uniformly, with a few exceptions. BF dates back to 1868.
City of Louisville, Colorado - Home
https://www.google.com/search?q=beav...2F%3B963%3B640
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