Retrofitting Suburban Downtowns for Walkability

Ian Law of Place Alliance spoke to the 2014 ASLA Annual Meeting in Denver at the end of November about what it takes to accomplish a vision for a more dense, walkable suburban downtown.

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December 15, 2014, 7:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Jared Green relays the proceedings of a session at the 2014 ASLA Annual Meeting in Denver, by Ian Law, ASLA, of Place Alliance, who "explained how even the best laid plans for retrofitting suburbia can go haywire."

Green describes one of the pitfalls Law cited during the session: "it’s particularly challenging to create a comprehensive plan that can sustain a dense, walkable downtown if there are many small landowners in a community. Ideally, 'one developer will be in control of the entire development.' Also important is that 'the goals of the developer are in synch with the goals of the community.'"

As a cautionary tale, Law detailed the experience of Malta, New York. Green describes the case study: "The community realized it needed to update itself to accommodate a new silicon chip plant that will bring in 2,000 jobs. However, they ended up creating an overly ambitious downtown revitalization plan. Instead of one downtown to replace what wasn’t working, they ended up creating three, said Law. These isolated, disconnected developments had 'too much retail for the scale of Malta.'"

The article goes on to describe a few success stories, as well, including Mizner Park in Boca Raton, Florida; Belmar in Lakewood, near Denver; and Mashpee Commons in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014 in ASLA The Dirt

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