January 29, 2006

Thinking Outside the (Big) Box

The city of Ventura, Calif. has declared a one-year moratorium on development along Ventura Boulevard, where Wal-Mart was eyeing a former K-mart site for a new store.

"The moratorium, imposed to give city planners time to draft guidelines for development along the six-lane strip, effectively shelves an application from the retail giant to build one of its prototypical big-box stores," according to the Los Angeles Times. "City Manager Rick Cole said the action wasn't necessarily aimed at discouraging Wal-Mart, but at meeting a mandate in the city's new General Plan to transform Victoria Avenue from a traffic-choked corridor to a pedestrian-friendly thoroughfare peppered with shops and houses."

It's a lesson I sorely wish planners here would take to heart as more retailers come to the Rte. 9/Rte. 30 Framingham-Natick "Golden Triangle": Just because the current environment is an ugly, pedestrian-hostile mess doesn't mean it has to stay that way together.

Time after time, local officials have lost the opportunity to begin remaking the area, by not requiring new development to conform to better standards than existing strip malls. You don't have to "grandfather" all future development! The old Lechmere mall could have been required to front the sidewalk with most parking in the rear, allowing Panera's outdoor seating to add to the pedestrian streetscape. Lowe's could have been required to build at the sidewalk; but after some talk at a Planning Board meeting, officials went back to the same old streetscape-killing, aesthetically awful strip mall.

1 comment:

  1. The lack of imaginative thinking permeates not only Framingham's Planners, but Natick as well, where misleading information plants a fear of change, and a select few hold the reigns on how a town is run.