July 28, 2004

WALK From Box To Box

We're not alone here wrestling with how to combine big-box retailers like Target and Lowe's with creating a more walkable community with a sense of place.

In Lawrence, Kansas, planners from the Smart Growth Leadership Institute suggested that future development in the city's two commercial corridors "should include plazas, pocket parks and a lot of sidewalks," the Lawrence Journal-World reports. "'Big box' stores like SuperTarget, 3201 S. Iowa, should 'integrate pedestrian walkways with surrounding development to provide a sense of safety and comfort for pedestrians,' the experts said in their report, now available on the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Department's Web site, www.lawrenceplanning.org.

Sound familiar? As I posted earlier, the Framingham Planning Department is now considering a request from Lowe's to build a store on Rte. 30 at the Verizon site. Developers want it on the back of the property, like surrounding pedestrian-hostile retailers that create an unsightly, suburban sprawl district around Target, BJ's and Super Stop & Shop.

Planning Board vice chair Ann Welles wants the new store to be closer to the street, creating a better streetscape, and I fervently agree -- as well as including designs that make the area pedestrian friendly, not simply creating sidewalks no one wants to use.

"[Lawrence] Planning Commissioner Bonnie Johnson, a member of the commission's design guidelines subcommittee, praised the pedestrian-friendliness of the recommendations," says the Journal-World article. " 'I think it's creating, in all parts of the city, different options for how to get somewhere,' Johnson said last week. 'So that if you do park and you're visiting Target, it would be fine to leave your car there and walk to JC Penney's, instead of getting in your car ... like you have to do today' ."

Hopefully, Framingham's Planning Board will come to the same conclusion.

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