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twoshort

Urban design in suburban settings

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Will someone (gvsusean?) take a picture of the new strip mall on the SW corner of lake michigan drive and 48th? I don't know how to describe it except the back iof the building is facing 48th and almost butts up to the sidewalk and the front, where the shops are, is facing inward. The whole thing is backwards. It's bizzare. I have no idea how something like that gets past the township.

It's just a great example of an building completely ignoring pedestrian traffic in the metro gr area.

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...I have no idea how something like that gets past the township....

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I don't know how to describe it except the back iof the building is facing 48th and almost butts up to the sidewalk and the front, where the shops are, is facing inward. The whole thing is backwards. It's bizzare. I have no idea how something like that gets past the township.

It's just a great example of an building completely ignoring pedestrian traffic in the metro gr area.

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Will someone (gvsusean?) take a picture of the new strip mall on the SW corner of lake michigan drive and 48th? I don't know how to describe it except the back iof the building is facing 48th and almost butts up to the sidewalk and the front, where the shops are, is facing inward. The whole thing is backwards. It's bizzare. I have no idea how something like that gets past the township.

It's just a great example of an building completely ignoring pedestrian traffic in the metro gr area.

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Actually, it is the opposite. Allendale is trying to get new development built as close to the road and sidewalks as possible, putting parking on the side or in back of the building, in order to facilitate pedestrian traffic. In other words, the buildings are not set way back from the road. Notice how the new Peppino's and Bono's are built close to the sidewalks with parking on the side and/or back?

Also, Allendale Township mandates sidewalks in all new developments. It would appear that they are doing the correct thing.

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Yeah, when they were first building it I said to my wife, "What's up with that?"

It is strange. You can't see the store from the road, yet it seem that you would see them from anyway you're walking, either.

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You're partially correct. Are they requiring buildings to be built close to the road? Yes. But they're still completely ignoring pedestrians and how the building looks from the street. In this situation you have a building that has a small setback from the road, but the storefronts are facing the parking lot which leaves a big blank wall with all the utility hookups at the sidewalk edge. It looks rediculous. Just because you have a setback rule doesn't mean you're 'doing the correct thing.'

I was seriously dumbfounded when I drove through there yesterday evening.

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I agree that it does look weird. I don't know why they didn't have the front facing Lake Michigan Drive. It is probably a compromise between the planning commission and the developers. The planning commission probably wanted the building to be facing Lake Michigan Drive, abutting the sidewalk, with parking in the back. The developers probably wanted the building to be facing Lake Michigan Drive, set back from the sidewalk, with parking in the front. With the compromise, the planning commission gets the building abutting the sidewalk and the developers get parking in front of the building. I am just speculating, however...

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And the area, including motorists and pedestrians, gets something nice and ugly to look at as they drive/walk by.

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Not to hijack twoshorts topic, but if you truly want to see the worst building ever, check out the D&W on Baldwin and 20th Ave in Jenison. The building is built almost out to the street on 20th, but the back of the building, complete with loading docks and dumpsters, faces the road. There is not one single tree for screening, no berm to act as a buffer between the sidewalk and the road. It's unbelievable. When I lived out there, I would just shake my head every time I saw it.

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Not to hijack twoshorts topic, but if you truly want to see the worst building ever, check out the D&W on Baldwin and 20th Ave in Jenison. The building is built almost out to the street on 20th, but the back of the building, complete with loading docks and dumpsters, faces the road. There is not one single tree for screening, no berm to act as a buffer between the sidewalk and the road. It's unbelievable. When I lived out there, I would just shake my head every time I saw it.

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Check out the strip mall in front of the Alpine Ave. Art Van Furniture store. It's close to the street with its back facing the road.

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Same with the Sprint/EB/Starbucks building @ Celebration Cinema north.

When they were building it, I honestly thought someone read the plans wrong, and made a mistake. It's horrible.

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Not to hijack twoshorts topic, but if you truly want to see the worst building ever, check out the D&W on Baldwin and 20th Ave in Jenison. The building is built almost out to the street on 20th, but the back of the building, complete with loading docks and dumpsters, faces the road. There is not one single tree for screening, no berm to act as a buffer between the sidewalk and the road. It's unbelievable. When I lived out there, I would just shake my head every time I saw it.

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im just surprised that something is there.. when I lived in Allendale about 4 years ago they had signs up saying that a new restaurant and retail was coming in. alas, seasons came and gone but nothing. 4 years later tada

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im just surprised that something is there.. when I lived in Allendale about 4 years ago they had signs up saying that a new restaurant and retail was coming in. alas, seasons came and gone but nothing. 4 years later tada

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Some at the city are furious that the Chili's and Carino's do face the East Beltline.

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I think Phizzy is right. Many of the local townships are trying to create an "urbanistic" environment by inserting into their zoning small setbacks and retailers facing each other like a small village. I think Allendale has been working on this for a while now. The only problem is is that they need to set more specific design guidelines if they are going to do this. Every building has to have a service side that is not usually very attractive. It's difficult to design a retail building with 3 or 4 attractive sides to it, so what happens is that the ugly side of the building ends up facing the main thoroughfare and the sidewalks passing by.

It's what happens when urbanistic ideas are inserted into a modern suburban environment. So far I don't think it is working very well.

As far as Johnny Carino's and IHOP at Celebration Village, they wanted all the outlots around Celebration Village to face the village, not the Beltline. That would have been tough to pull off and make it look attractive. I actually think the Sprint/Subway/Starbucks grouping doesn't look too bad.

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Many of the local townships are trying to create an "urbanistic" environment by inserting into their zoning small setbacks and retailers facing each other like a small village. I think Allendale has been working on this for a while now. The only problem is is that they need to set more specific design guidelines if they are going to do this. Every building has to have a service side that is not usually very attractive. It's difficult to design a retail building with 3 or 4 attractive sides to it, so what happens is that the ugly side of the building ends up facing the main thoroughfare and the sidewalks passing by.

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Because the master plan as presented to the City and neighbors showed the buildings in the "village" setting facing in not out to the Beltline.

I'm guessing that the restaurants couldn't swallow the fact that they wouldn't have direct exposure to the major road and cried foul. They were allowed to build in their typical suburban, auto-dominated, sprawl fashion and turned out to face the Beltline.

The neighbors felt it was a bait and switch.

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It's done all the time with the new lifestyle center developments. One that isn't done too badly is Eastwood Towne Center in Lansing. Designer's just have to get out of the "ass of the building" mindset and put more thought into what the back looks like.

There is an interesting article in this month's Architectural Record about Lifestyle Centers. Usually I don't give a crap about them but for some reason I read on. One interesting point that they made was that IF done correctly, correct scale and make up (big if there), mixed-use lifestyle centers that include residential can help to bring a defined center to citites that have no sense of place. Cities like Kentwood or Southfield come to mind. Is it true? I don't know. Interesting theory anyway.

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Have you ever tried to park at the eastwood towne centre? Or walk around there?

I can see the lifestyle feel of it, but that place is a logistical nightmare, poor design on inflow and outflow of traffic, and the 6 months in which it is freezing outside makes it tough to walk around from store to store with the wind whipping, and carrying bags, and so on.

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Yes I have, I built the McAllister's there. I don't know what it's like these days. It was still mostly under construction when I was there.

I guess if you don't want any wind, you'll have to go to a mall.

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Allendale has been (or was) ahead of the curve for many years. They desperately desired to have a town center, a sense of place, etc, etc. They hired a consultant to masterplan one. They have created a special committee to review each project within their "town center", they hired a consultant to create a marketing vision for their town center, they have many elements in place to aid a developer financially in the creation of the vision, including the creation of a DDA (I think). They have a well intended planning commission, they have a sympathetic planning director and township supervisor who have championed the cause.

What they do not have is a zoning mechanism that enforces the kind of development that they desire. Currently they are using a standard PUD for this mechanism. It is clearly not working. What they do not have is a clear understanding of all of the nuances of what makes urbanism. What they do not have is a masterplan that enables urbanism. What they do not have is public streets that can be humanized (ie-M-45).

They have mandated sidewalks and pretty street lights everywhere that new development takes place. I was once at a meeting where they forced a developer to place sidewalks adjacent to a cow pasture because his development was down the street (and on the other side). While sidewalks are great, the urban sidewalk is not necessarily appropriate everywhere. These nuances are lost and it is evidenced in the built form. What they should have been asking, is the appropriateness of the development in the farm fields to begin with (a masterplan problem).

What this is all about in regards to building frontages is a huge lack of understanding about how the building should engage and define the public realm. Simply placing the building close to the street guarantees nothing. And it is not appropriate to have the building at the property line in every instance.

I am amazed at the disparity between the understanding of this building frontage issue. On numerous occasions we have done layouts for developers who want the "urban feel". Upon viewing the layout, the typical response is positive, except for one small nuance. They view the back (the side facing the parking) as the front and they view the front (the side facing the street) as the back. This disparity kills the project and it is evident not only in retail, but in townhouses, duplexes and even single family homes (snout house example).

As a bigger issue, look to many New Urban projects, even the good ones. What have they done in many cases? They have turned their back to the public streets and created an internalized street system. Why have they done this? Most likely because the existing streets in most of these townships are atrocious and they do not allow parking. So instead of fighting that fight, they turn their back. What has this accomplished? We still have a deteriorated public realm.

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