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JerseyBoy

A Pedestrian's Review

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This is a new topic that I was inspired to start while walking around the new outparcel development near the new Wal-Mart on Peters Creek Parkway in Winston-Salem this afternoon. The goal of this thread is to have members post their reviews regarding walkability and asthetics about new or existing retail, residential, or mixed-use projects in the Triad.

The Triad is known for its reputation of rubber-stamping every cheap, suburban-sprawl project that one could imagine. This often leads to unconnected and congested developments and, ultimately, poor walkability and density. The failure to stick to a master plan for a neighborhood of a city or impose new zoning regulations continues to increase our dependence on the automobile. Perfect examples of this are Hanes Mall Boulevard, Wendover Avenue, University Parkway, Kernersville, and eastern Guilford County/Burlington. City/county governments see the perfect opportunity to catch-up to other cities and gain bragging rights, yet they do not look at the long term impacts of the development they just approved will have on the land, community, and region. Sure, it may bring in extra tax dollars and encourage other developments to be built, but will it enhance the character of your city and be an eternal product that future generations can enjoy? Most of the time the answer to this is no. Though there are developers out there that do not abuse the power they have and try to better their community, even if it means putting out a little more cash and not getting that big return you could have had. These are the ones each city wishes they had. Then there are those who will rape the land they have by putting up an EIFS monstrosity that does not greet the sidewalk/street in an appropriate manner and creates an eyesore that has its days numbered until a developer will demolish it and start new. City councils should see beyond the dashing suits and propaganda that lies in front of their eyes and approval stamp/pen.

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My first review is of the new retail village in front of the new Wal-Mart on Peters Creek Parkway in Winston-Salem.

I haven't traveled to this side of town in about two months, and, while driving down Peters Creek, it hit me that this area is poised to become the second coming of Hanes Mall Boulevard. Sure, I've thought about this and discussed with all of you, but when you realize the residential and retail developments opening up along this stretch of road this will definitely be a catalyst for future developments.

I parked in the Wal-Mart parking lot and walked over to this new center. This was the first time that I had actually studied in person the new pedestrian features added because of the zoning ordinances passed by Winston-Salem two years ago. Needless to say, it wasn't a walk in the park (no pun intended) crossing over parking space after parking space to reach this center. The 'oasis of hope' was the new bus stop put in by WSTA and the developers.

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This space provided ample room for riders with many shopping bags and a roof incase of rain. Very appealing for downtown residents who wish to grab those not so easy to find items on Fourth Street!

Now, here came the obstacle of crossing entry points that lead into the parking lots that have no stop signs and are usually sped through by careless drivers. Not that this is a too effective traffic calming measure, but the cross-walk pictured below does make one feel safer while crossing the street.

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Personally, I like the shape of this retail center. The parts of it are not too disconnected and the colors are pleasing to the eye, yet don't blend in with the Wal-Mart next door or the Lowe's across the street. It's not welcoming to be greeted by a nice fresh layer of mulch and asphalt. You want to be greeted and welcomed, not turned away.

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I was very pleased with the corner entrances and wide sidewalks. I was also impressed with the way the drive-thru was incorporated into the design of the center. The lane is not very wide and will cause traffic to slow down and look out for pedestrians crossing the street.

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I believe Quizno's and Burger King will share this eating space. The lack of floor to ceiling windows makes this area very uninviting and cold. Hopefully some lighting features and garden accents will be added to entice people to eat outside.

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I don't know what it is with developers these days, but they seem to have a lack of taste when it comes to materials. This brick is the same type used in West End Village and was used heavily throughout the 70's and can be still be seen on Forsyth Tech's Bolton Street Campus. :sick:

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The City of W-S recently installed these crosswalk guides, but it does little to provide safety for the pedestrian who has to cross 5-6 lanes of traffic and a median. The masonry crosswalk would have been nice across Clemmonsville Road, but I suppose that's too much to ask. :rolleyes:

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Do these scream well hidden and easy on the eye to you? They sure don't to me...This developer must have collaborated with Boulevard Centro's WEV team or it must be the trend nowadays to be lazy and not "clean up after yourself."

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Personally, I like how the parking lot is raised higher than the sidewalk on this side. It provides peace of mind for the pedestrian that a car will not be infringing on their walking space.

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I was surprised at how many designated compact car parking spaces there were here. :thumbsup:

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It's not even open and it is already peeling...

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Various Photos:

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Overall, I give the development a 7/10 for connectivity with Peters Creek Parkway sidewalks and traffic-calming features. Though it lost points in materials and lack of presence on Clemmonsville Road.

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Not to state the obvious, but Wendover is particularly shameful. Check out the bus stop in front of Wal Mart; just a sign on the berm along 8 lanes of traffic- no sidewalk, no shelter, literally just a mudpatch on the side of the road. Forget having to walk across the parking lot to get to the store, there's not even a proper walkway to get you from the "bus stop" to the parking lot- just a cowpath worn by the elderly and single mothers carrying a baby in one arm and groceries in the other. Makes me embarrassed to be a taxpayer.

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Your documentation here is, in a word, terrific. However, there's one problem with your methodology- you drove to the site and walked. How far is this from any housing? Is there any housing on site? Where is the nearest apartment complex? I imagine that walking to the location from the nearest housing might have considerably impacted your score.

Here's another question- those spaces for compact cars- it looks like from the camera that they were placed farthest away from the stores. Is that true? If so, the SUV drivers are rewarded. (It may be there are other stores out of view to the left, making this better than it looks in the picture)

There is probably better than average suburban strip mall ped circulation within the parcel, but I'd give it a 3 or 4/10 at most.

Don't get me wrong, though. This type of photo analysis should be done much more often in the development process. I hope you share this work with the planning dept. I like your approach and your eye for details. Keep it up!

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Excellent review! This is the first i have seen someone do a review like this for a development. I agree, I think this is good information for the planning dept. Every development should be critiqued in a similar manner.

Unfortunately, I think the greatest influence in developments is money. Building walkable communities including housing and commercial opportunities is still hard to come by in new developments. A typical builder buys a tract of land with the idea of making money off of it. Spend only what you have to make your shopping center nice enough to attract retailers. The government could step in and tell people specifically how they should and shouldnt develop the property they own but with too much of that and sacrifice our liberties. I don't know what the answer is. I applaud developments and developers who do build walkable communities. We still have a long ways to go. But I don't see many significant walkable communities until the general public demands it and it becomes financially rewarding to oblige these people.

Just my thoughts.

Great stuff!

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Oops. wrong forum! I moved my comments concerning sidewalks in Greensboro to the Triad Transit forum.

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