Opinion: Bring Back the Neighborhood Corner Store

A call for zoning reforms that legalize commercial buildings in residential neighborhoods in Seattle—a building type and land use that has fallen out of favor all over the United States.

Read Time: 2 minutes

July 11, 2021, 9:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Victoria, British Columbia

Roshan_NG / Shutterstock

Sam Kraft, principal of D3 Architects and instructor of architecture at the University of Washington, writes a guest article for The Seattle Times that begins by singing the praises of two building types that are no longer legal in Seattle (like in most cities in the United States): fourplexes and corner stores.

A few corner stores predate the 1923 zoning code written by Harland Bartholomew that implemented a widespread preference for single-family detached housing:

There are a small handful of stores and cafes like Boulevard Grocery (now called Seven Coffee Roasters Market & Cafe) speckled throughout the city’s residential neighborhoods. They have all been in continued operation since at least 1922, weathering the depression, WWII and the Vietnam War, the oil embargo, the Great Recession and now online commerce. Why have they been able to maintain business for 100 years? Because they are beloved local places that connect us — to Seattle’s past; to each other; to the food, drink, art, culture and life of a specific neighborhood. They create more activity on the sidewalk, reducing crime and cars and increasing walking, biking, skipping, scootering and maybe even laughing.

Kraft's appeal is simple: "Let's allow corner stores back into our neighborhoods." The article includes a call to action to appeal to local elected officials with the power to change the city's land use code. An architect in Portland, Oregon made a similar case in 2020, calling for "Accessory Commercial Units," which could be retrofitted for some of the same benefits described by Kraft here.

Friday, June 25, 2021 in The Seattle Times

Chicago Commute

The Right to Mobility

As we consider how to decarbonize transportation, preserving mobility, especially for lower- and middle-income people, must be a priority.

January 26, 2023 - Angie Schmitt

Aerial view of Bend, Oregon with river and old mill district

Bend Eliminates Parking Minimums

The city is complying with an Oregon state mandate that some cities have challenged in court.

January 20, 2023 - KTVZ

Aerial view of dense single-family homes in neighborhood still under construction

How Virginia Counties Use Zoning to Stifle Development

Some state legislators are proposing action at the state level as counties block development using zoning and development requirements even as housing prices rise sharply in the region.

January 23, 2023 - The Virginia Mercury

Golf course with palm trees and mountains in background in Palm Springs, California

Despite Water Crisis, Desert Golf Courses Thrive

Officials in the Coachella Valley seem reluctant to restrict water supplies to the many golf courses and ornamental lakes that dot the region, opting instead to cut water deliveries to a groundwater recharge facility.

7 hours ago - Los Angeles Times

Freeway traffic at dusk in downtown Los Angeles, California

Lonely by Design: How Urban Planning Can Intensify Social Isolation

Walkable neighborhoods, access to parks, and opportunities for social interaction can help reduce the burden of loneliness and promote community. But many of our cities aren’t built this way.

January 30 - Streetsblog USA

Blue electric transit buses at a charging bay in Gothenburg, Sweden with two-story red brick building in background

New Round of Federal Clean Transit Funding Announced

Two federal grants will award close to $1.7 billion to state and local agencies to replace aging transit fleets and boost workforce development initiatives.

January 30 - U.S. Department Of Transportation