July 10, 2006

A Look at Mashpee Commons

"Block by block, year by year, [its developers] expanded and diversified Mashpee Commons, all the while sticking to the idea that people should be able to do things on foot - get to stores, restaurants, movie theaters, doctors, the post office, the public library - a broad range of everyday destinations," writes New Urban News senior editor Philip Langdon in the Sunday Hartford Courant.

"They didn't ban cars, but they had them park at the curb - since on-street parking helps pedestrians on the sidewalks feel shielded from moving vehicles - or in perimeter lots that are better shaped than the oceans of asphalt at conventional shopping centers.

"In their decision to revive a traditional, mixed-use form of development, [Buff] Chace and [Douglas] Storrs were onto something important. Mashpee Commons became a much-studied example of how New Englanders can create compact places amid the sprawling, low-density development that's been the norm for the past several decades."

There are a number of important points worth reading in this article, besides an endorsement of the broad goals of pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use developments:

* An unattractive, soul-less strip mall was transformed, but it didn't happen overnight. It doesn't always have to happen in a grand gesture all at once. Doing something to improve sense of place is better than doing nothing.

* You don't have to ban cars to make an attractive environment for walkers. The right parking can improve your streetscape.

* Small details matter, such as including space for small, non-chain stores.

* It may not be perfect, and that's still OK. You don't have to re-create Concord Center or Newbury Street in order to improve on pedestrian-hostile design.

No comments:

Post a Comment