Do Chain Stores Threaten L.A.'s Newfound Urbanity?

As downtown Los Angeles seeks to cement its nascent transformation into a full-fledged urban neighborhood, Sam Lubell cautions against the threat brought by the suburban mindset of Walmart, Target, and other chain operators.
August 2, 2012, 6am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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It says a lot about how delicate downtown L.A.'s remarkable transformation over the past decade must be that local urbanists fear the arrival of a single Walmart to the neighborhood's north edge may unravel the area's trend towards increased pedestrianization and street activity.

But alas, in an editorial for The Architect's Newspaper, Sam Lubell laments the arrival of one of Walmart's Neighborhood Market stores (at 33,000 sf, it's smaller than the average 106,000 sf store) to Chinatown as, "A major test of Downtown's continued development."

Lubell implores the city's citizens "to be vigilant to make sure that Walmart doesn't further decay the fabric of a neighborhood, and the city, at a vital turning point."

"As the economy continues to turn around and development makes its way into Downtown LA and other dense urban areas," writes Lubell, "we need to maintain the urbanity, albeit an urbanity tempered with amenities like parks, public spaces and bike-lanes, that makes our cities more viable, exciting, and livable. What happens now, as the recovery is in its infancy, will set the stage for future development. This is a turning point. Let's take advantage." 

Have faith Angelenos, even a poorly designed Walmart along its fringe shouldn't be enough to derail a downtown development train that continued to plow ahead during the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Look at it this way, even a bad outcome may help galvanize neighbors to define and defend the type of urbanity that drew them to downtown in the first place. 

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Published on Tuesday, July 31, 2012 in The Architect's Newspaper
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