What's the Difference Between a Strip Mall and Paris?

Geoff Dyer points out why the difference between the typical strip mall and the multi-way boulevard may be more subtle than you think.
June 8, 2012, 6am PDT | Hazel Borys
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According to Dyer, "Like its larger cousin the mall, the strip mall has become a symbol for our dysfunctional car-focused suburban environments. Ask any born-again urbanite why, and they'll tell you that the strip mall's most damning offense is putting all that parking in front of the store, creating a horrible car-focused environment. But is it so simple? Take that same urbanite to some of the celebrated boulevards of Paris, Barcelona, or even Chico, California and see those offenses forgiven."

Dyer goes on to explain the similarities between the arterial corridor lined with strip malls and the multi-way boulevard, and the key difference - the boulevard's "connected, high-quality pedestrian realm linking multiple properties." He also explores how North American urban designers might talk transportation engineers into letting them make more beloved places by moving from heavy arterial usage into a multi-way boulevard urban ordering system.

"To conclude, I ask the rhetorical question. If there are only subtle differences between the ingredients of the two roadways, there are many successfully built boulevards, and there are far, far more advantages of the multi-way boulevard over the arterial, then why are we still building miles of big dumb arterial streets while our multi-way boulevards are kept locked in the broom closet like Cinderella?"

Dyer wraps up with a list of things that might help you get a multi-way boulevard built locally.

Thanks to Hazel Borys

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Published on Thursday, June 7, 2012 in PlaceShakers
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